Automotive Design

The 2010 North American International Auto Show starts on Monday. I have never gone, and I am not going this year, but I would like to ramble incoherently on the topic of automotive design…you have been warned.

The business of building and for that matter designing cars is extremely competitive.  Automakers spend millions and develope vehicles years in advance that quite often never even make it to production.  The lengths developers will go to insure that new designs are not seen until product launch is dizzying, but after all this time,  money, and secrecy competing models typically end up look nearly the same.  Most people would argue with me, but it can be hard to tell one brand from the next.

In the 50’s there was the shoe box design.  There are a lot of these cars still around and I have always had a hard time telling them apart.  The 1955 Ford Crown Vic looks just like a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, which also looks just like a 1955 Packard Clipper, though you don’t see as many of those anymore.  The same can be said about cars of the 60’s.  My 1963 Ford Falcon looks a lot like a 1963 Chevy Nova, so much so that nearly everyone mistakes it for one.  Even a 1967 Chevy Camaro looks a bit like a 1967 Ford Mustang, though most enthusiast will adamantly disagree.  Ok, I am skipping the 70’s and the 80’s because most of the design are either too horrifying or too boring to mention.  In the 90’s, well the early 90’s where not that great either though a few good designs came out of this decade, mostly from Japan.  Still the similarities continued,  the 1993 Mazda MX-6 looks like a 1993 Nissan 240sx, which looks a lot like a1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT, wich looks like a 1993 Dodge Stealth, because they are the same.  There are hundreds of other examples throughout automotive history and I am sure I missed some good ones.

I make this point because I find it interesting, not because it necessarily bothers me.  Yea, most car designs steal copybarrow ideas from competing cars making everything look very much the same but as long as those design ideas are good, then there are just more good looking cars on the road.  The problem I have is when those ideas are thought up by someone who obviously hates cars.

There is a new design theme “swimming” it way through the industry making a Ford look like Chevy look like a Mazdalook like a Honda, look like a Suzuki, look like a Toyota look like THIS.   The round bubbly front end with a gaping mouth and giant wrap around and over headlights that nearly every company has incorporated into the current or future line up is ridiculous.  Some aspect of this design work well on some cars, the big headlights work well on the Nissan GT-R,Ferrari 458 Italia and  the new Subaru Outback, which I plan on buying. The Round bubbly thing works well on theMini CooperFiat 500 and the VW Beetle.  The giant front grilles are brilliant on the Audi S4, the Mitsubishi Evo and even the Chrysler 300.   Though, when you take  all those ideas and cram them into one car, especially a small car, it just looks like ten pounds of sh** in a five pound bag or a Japanese cartoon character or well, a puffer fish.  It seems like everyone is doing it though.  The entire Buick line up looks like the same car now, not that they were ever very interesting before and now the once proudly unique, and boxy, Volvo has decide to go all curvy on us too.

Frankly, it seems like every car is starting to look like a Toyota Prius and that is a shame, because the Prius is not now, never has been and never will be a good looking car.  On top of that I can see these designs becoming very dated, very quickly.  Look at a 2008 Ford Fusion, this car already seems out dated especially when compared to 2010 Ford Fusion.  I don’t know, maybe I just don’t get it, I have never been hip or trendy but I have always been all about cars.  All I know is that I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Ford Fiesta, but I would take a Volkswagen Polo any day of the week…if they sold it in the states that is.


2 Responses to “Automotive Design”

  1. Eliot Says:


  2. All About Cars Says:

    Very good article. I will be dealing with some of these issues as well..

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