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Looking forward, going backwards

Looking forward, going backwards

Dan Scanlan bemoans the lack of creativity in today’s car industry.

February 21, 2010 5:30 by

All this is not to say that there have not been retro success stories in recent years. The MINI Cooper is the star here. BMW achieved a remarkable feat with this car, capturing significant sales in America, a country to which the original had never been imported officially.

Success was accomplished through clever marketing, where quirky individualism was celebrated rather than downplayed. The marketing campaign even found a way to make fuel efficiency glamorous well before gas prices started to fluctuate wildly in the American market. Perhaps that’s the key to retro success: a core value that is in step with the times. If I were to look to the past for inspiration, it would be to an era of leanness and elegant proportion. It is fortunate that this rules out the era when I became a driver: the 1980s. There are few cars that I would select from that time to be my ride. It was a grim time for styling, even if the mania for aerodynamics had just begun.

I would have to look further back, starting with the 1938 Bugatti Atlantic. The Atlantic’s flair came from a dorsal seam of exterior rivets running the length of its roofline, the telltale sign of its aluminum skin. Here is one aspect generally absent from most modern cars: any sign that form follows function. A vehicle’s computer-envisioned exterior bears little relation to the mechanisms that lay within. Is it too much to ask for a clear sign of an engine somewhere in there?

As we look forward to the next decade, there are optimistic signs for people who care about automotive design: an increasing diversity of looks between brands, and the first real attempts to create family resemblances across models. I say this is hopeful because I believe it is one step in rebuilding brand loyalty, a reason for drivers to keep coming back. Today we are offered more ways than ever to say who we are, from Web sites to Facebook pages. What we drive should be no exception. Automakers who make people say, “I want to drive that,” are sure to be one step closer to success.

- Trends magazine

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1 Comment

  1. OFiroz on February 27, 2010 9:24 am

    Chrysler was on the edge of suicide when they introduced 300C. Bold, aggressive and Mafia look win the hearts of Americans instantly. It clicked and sold more than their flagship brand Jeep Cherokee in 2005 – 2006 years. In fact it was the first car that Chrysler looked back for the inspiration, kind of vintage car with modern twist and tweak. It revived Chrysler brand dramatically and placed against other top American companies like Ford and GMC. Secondly they came up with Dodge Charger after witnessing tremendous success of Ford Mustang Retro style in 2005. In 2006 Dodge had came up with Charger. With HEMI and 3.5 engines it also became a hit. Cleverly they affix four doors instead of the original two door cars they used to produce in 1975. It was a great vision and unmatched creativity that brought Charger forward, it never looked like a 4 door sedan, and obviously sold more than two door sport cope!
    Ford’s success continued with their Mustang, Explorer and small car Focus. But it seems like nobody knows about their best cars that appeared to be lost in clutter. Ford Taurus (Five Hundred) cars are highly competitive, stylish and most affordable luxury car in the market right now. Ford revived their bad sales effected Five Hundred in 2008, with more powerful brand new 3.5 V6 engine, with much better fuel efficiency! Same engine as Ford Edge. In fact Ford had clear winner there, only if they had better marketing strategy and tools!
    GMC is one American motor giant that had never came out of the trouble. They sold more small cars recently than the big trucks. In 2007 they came up with the New Bold Style strategy after reshaping almost all of their car line up, but after 2 years we can see the quality of these cars are fading, excessive plastic and cheap interior is far behind from their own soil cousins Ford and Chrysler, where these American cars too far behind from Japanese and German brands.
    Now American car brands had done initial move almost successfully to push the sales and make the ripple in the market, they most important part they seems to forget that is consistency and sustainability, to sustain in this most competitive market world is better product and service, I think that is where the American motor companies are failed, and failed miserably. Any how still there are people in Middle East and around the world who just drive none other than American cars purely because of their handling, majesty and performance. I confess I am one of them!


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