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Little Boxes – Are Cars becoming Boring?

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The DriveWrite Archives

Little Boxes – Are Cars becoming Boring?

Geoff Maxted
DriveWrite Automotive
September 11, 2015

Boring Cars
It is wrong to generalise, so they say. In the global scheme of things though sometimes it is necessary to get a point across and the point is the state of the car industry. On the face of it, the motor car business is in rude health and car makers boast on a monthly basis about the latest, greatest sales results ever. That’s great, but at what price for real car enthusiasts?

Potential car buyers seem to be spoiled for choice, but is that really the case? Increasingly, motor manufacturers are building product on shared architecture and shared technology. Cars from two or more brands could in fact be exactly the same under the skin. The only differences are cosmetic. The only choices may be trim or price alone.

We can only buy the cars that are on offer; we don’t get a say in the matter. Right now, the motor industry seems to be hell bent on this so-called ‘lifestyle’ business, packing complex and expensive to repair high tech gadgetry and connectivity into cars whether we need it or want it or not. According to the Daily Telegraph, right now we’re not that keen, in the UK at least. Meanwhile, cars in the various sectors are all beginning to look the similar – and it’s boring. Cars are getting dull. It’s fair to say that a likely majority of people couldn’t give a monkey’s but there’s probably a very large minority that want something more from their motoring than just eco-fudge.

Clearly, Big Brother has had his cold, dead hand in this. Car makers are constantly under pressure from this directive or that directive however misguided or just plain stupid. They are obliged to conform but, no matter how safe our cars become, you can rest assured that elements of the great driving public will always find a way to have a shunt.

These issues aside though, the real problem is that car designers have lost their bottle or have had their desire for design innovation reined in by corporate bean-counters, the ones that say ‘better safe than sorry’. Where’s the flair? What worries the bosses is the memory of a history of automotive design dogs of the past. Probably most of you can write a list, but what would your life be like if you never took a chance or took the road less travelled?

Take the most popular sectors; superminis, hatchbacks and SUVs. They all look pretty much the same as if there was an official government template somewhere that had to be approximately adhered to. Sure, there are differences; a swage line here, a crease there but essentially a hatchback is a hatchback. Line up a row of SUV’s or ‘crossovers’ and look at them in profile. They are basically the same shape because of the constant striving to get legroom and headroom and boot space onto smaller wheelbases.

As mentioned, it is wrong to generalise but you get the point. Cars are becoming increasingly uniform and although there are still a fair number of interesting motors out there the list is getting shorter. Beautiful design is mostly now the preserve of the supercar. If you take the fun and pleasure out of motoring then what’s left? An A to B shuttle. I’d sooner lose some the perceived advantages in favour of a swooping design, a spare sporting dashboard and a longer bonnet; anything in fact that, when I look at the vehicle I can say with pride, “That’s my car, that is”.

It’s not likely to change very soon. In all likelihood it will just get worse, alas. As we are all well aware, the bean-counters rule and because of that the wondrous innovation and daredevil design of the past will be lost forever. So, it seems very likely that your driving future will consist of a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one and they all look just the same.

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