Bland Cars And Boring Design

April 8, 2010

Cars today are ugly. Worse than that, they are boring. They have become horrible blobs with hiked up rear ends, scoopy fronts, and lots and lots of cheap plastic. They all wear the same silver or beige paint and have stances like a rottweiler defecating.

Sure there are exceptions, which the manufacturers never cease to tout, but the average American family doesn’t have many choices. Family sedans are aerodynamic but still plain, and most come with cloth seats and bulky controls. The average family buys cars that are simple and affordable; safe and reliable little toasters recommended to them by market researchers such as Consumer Reports.

That trend is not the fault of the designers, however. Go to any auto show and you will see some of the wildest concept cars imaginable. Take a look at design boards throughout the industry--in design schools and on the web--and you will see cars that are truly amazing. These cars never make it to the public because some bean counter or project manager decides the risk isn’t worth it. Granted, it can sometimes take a billion or more dollars to create a new car, but too much caution is as bad as none at all.

Automakers need to take chances with design. Back in 1955 American cars were huge monsters just beginning to grow fins and painted like Easter eggs in pastel blues and greens. At the same time, European automakers revolutionized design with cars like the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, the Jaguar XK140 and the Citroen DS. It can be done. The reason we remember the names of great American designers like Bill Mitchell, Virgil Exner Sr. and Harley Earl are because they created unforgettable cars, not boring shoeboxes on wheels. Great design doesn’t have to be only for Ferrari and Lamborghini. People want to care about what they drive and one good design can bring a company back from the dead--just ask Bugatti.

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