Sunday, April 22, 2012

Manufacturers foist ugly cars on consumers

... who are either clueless or gullible 

Jeeps were always pretty ugly, but this
new model takes the cake.
Update! Feb. 23. Jeep's new Cherokee might take the cake here. It's described in this article as "lumpier, angrier." You decide.

 Car manufacturers are going out of their way to design ugly cars.

I didn’t think they could top themselves after SUVs became all the rage, but the marketing behind them blinded consumers into thinking they were buying a safe family vehicle that would take the kids to soccer practice, the wife to the mall, and the husband to the hunting lodge in the mountains. Or convince their neighbors that they were members of the Secret Service. SUVs and their newer kissing cousins, the crossovers, are a lame concept that sucks people into believing they’re the only thing to drive if they have 1.3 kids and a dog.

No, SUVs were not safe, until the tip-over rate led to stabilizer systems. They’re a must for winter weather? Sure, if you want to play cowboy and scare the living daylights out of mere mortals around you. And ice is ice: an SUV will skid as much as a sedan if there’s no traction to be had.

Chevy Suburban: Big and fancy
Cadillac Escalade: Big and fancier
Who could consider them attractive? They all look alike; gas-guzzling boxes with wheels. Some big, some bigger, some fancier. Some grossly over the top, such as the Hummer and the Cadillac Escalade. By the way escalade means “the scaling of fortified walls using ladders, as a form of military attack.” Yep, that’s about what it takes to climb inside one of them. The size of these vehicles now requires back-up cameras to avoid squishing toddlers on tricycles. What happened to looking behind the vehicle before you get in, side view and rear view mirrors, and/or warning the little buggers?

Jamie Lincoln Kitman recently posted a great article on the Car Talk Guy's site titled "Vulgarians at the Gate: The Revenge of the Super Utes." According to Kitman, Bentley and Lamborghini are toying with producing SUVs. As if Mercedes, Porche, Audi, and BMV haven't stooped low enough. "Luxury SUV demand is on the boil and the world’s stupidest machines are ascendant," he writes. And I love this comment:
To every blogging man, woman and child, and even a few talking pets, everyone hated the Bentley SUV. Yet somehow all observers agreed – they'll sell every one they can build. The luxury SUV’s brash offensiveness is, it seems, like Marshall McLuhan’s medium, the message. You say it’s ugly like that’s a bad thing.
Apparently Jaguar is toying with the idea of an SUV. My late best friend, Amy, drove Jaguars for years. If a Jaguar SUV is put on the market, I'm sure she would descend from heaven with a crowbar!
Infiniti FX50: Big and bulbous
Now, enter the “crossover,” the attempt to sedanize vehicles that were originally built on a truck platform. This involved sanding the sharp edges and hiring an elephant to sit on the vehicle to create a sloping appearance to the front and back. However, the elephant also succeeded on making them bulbous, which is most apparent in the Nissan Rogue and Murano and Infiniti FX.

The acknowledged poster child for ugly vehicles is the Pontiac Aztek, with its snout-like front end and rear end that couldn’t figure out if it was a moon roof or hatchback. It’s been described as one of the first crossovers. At least manufacturers had to good sense to discontinue it after a couple of years, then went back to the drawing board.

Nissan Cube: Ugly
That resulted in a series of strange-looking boxy vehicles, such as the Honda Element and the Scion. Add to that the Nissan Juke and Cube. They must be preying on the concept that these vehicles are so ugly they’re cute.

In addition, they’re shrinking the crossovers in an effort to make up for years of gas-guzzlers and hybridizing them. They’re even weirder looking with short-nosed front ends and sloped hatch-back-like rear ends.
Toothless leer

Aggressive looking?
The black hole
Be afraid, be very afraid
But what’s totally baffling is the design of the front grills of some of these cars. Are designers trying to recreate the image of some toothless elf? Or an alien creature? Think the little Mazda and the hybrid Sonata (which in its previous state was quite attractive). Are they supposed to be “aggressive-looking?” Perhaps that’s the intent of The Outlander hybrid and the Ford Focus, which was also attractive in its prior incarnation.  Far from the toothsome grills of many cars, these look like some black hole, perhaps looking to suck in its nearest challenger.

The psychology of how people choose cars is long and complicated. Everyone’s perception of what looks good is different. A recent article in The Street listed the five most beautiful cars of all time compiled by the auto experts at the 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV, the 1971 Miura, the 1967 Corvette, the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, and the 1931 Duesenberg Model J Long Wheelbase Coup.

Unfortunately, these are not the cars that would make your heart skip a beat as they pass by you on the highway on the way to work. As for me, I do love the car I drive every day. The most beautiful? What do you think?

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