In a high-tech world, car designers still rely on clay

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WARREN, Mich. (AP) Car designers have every kind of software and virtual reality tool. But when they want to make sure a car’s curves look just right, they rely on one of the world’s oldest materials: clay.

Every vehicle by every major carmaker, from Mercedes to Tesla to Toyota, is formed in clay long before it ever hits the road. Automakers hire sculptors to make scale models and full-size clay vehicles. They sculpt every detail, from windows to door handles to slight creases in the hood.

Bob Boniface, design director for global Buick exteriors at General Motors Co., said design is more critical than ever to car companies. Brands are now basically equal when it comes to crash performance, fuel economy, road feel and price. Design is the great differentiator.

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