By on September 24, 2012

At the Japanese launch of the Volkswagen Up!, VW’s design chief Walter de’ Silva told a group of assembled journalists that “overdesign”, his term for the recent spate of flamboyantly styled vehicles is now passe, and that the future belongs to clean, minimalist design.

A blurb in AN quotes the legendary designer as saying

“It can’t be only for one or two seasons,” de’ Silva says. “People want to understand what they buy. There is a certain security in our design. When you know that it keeps the resale value, it’s important for a family. That’s our intention.”

Naturally, de’ Silva praised vehicles like the Golf for offering “timeless” design that endures through various trends. The AN article cites cars like the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion and BMW 3-Series as examples of the current “overdesign” trend (though stops short of quoting de’ Silva as offering them up as examples), and while myself and much of the B&B likes these cars, the fickle nature of design and the auto industry’s penchant for rapid change makes it an interesting question; is the pendulum moving the other way?

From my totally uneducated perspective, design, especially for a global vehicle, seems to be governed first and foremost by the dreadful European pedestrian safety regulations; the blunt front ends necessitate the high belt lines, and stubby ass-ends, which in turn call for oversized wheels that look appropriate but add mass and degrade ride quality.

But what do I know? I leave the design critiques to Sajeev and pontificate about everything else. Is de’ Silva on the right path?

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100 Comments on “QOTD: Volkswagen’s de’ Silva Says “Overdesign” Is Dead. Agree Or Disagree?...”


  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Does this mean no more man hole cover grilles and little LED lights under the headlights of Audi’s?

    • 0 avatar

      ^This

      I’ve loved Audi’s for their clean, understated design since I was about 6. The LEDs heralded the end of that. Rear LEDs are fine, they aren’t necessarily fussy. But the fronts are just too much.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      I, apparently only I, love the Angel Eyes!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Here’s some irony. I’m pretty certain that de Silva is the man that perpetrated the initial over-and-under-the-bumper grill surround in the VW group, perhaps on a SEAT concept car. Then the gen-5 Golfs, Audis, and all their imitators picked it up. While I detest LED running lights, those grills are the biggest scars on VW group’s generally restrained designs.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        That was before de’ Silva. He actually delayed the Golf Mk6 launch to simplify the corporate grille. The new Scirocco was the first car under de’ Silva’s reign. New Jetta, Passat, Eos, Tiguan etc have all picked up the newer, more restrained look.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        He is ‘credited with the 2005 Audi A6, the first one with the single-frame grill.

        “Volkswagen Group management charged de Silva with giving the Audi range a more emotional design language which included the controversial introduction of the full-height, single-frame front grille that now adorns all Audi models.” from his Wikipedia entry.

        • 0 avatar
          Bugeye

          I simply detest what DeSilver has done to the VAG products. He has trashed what were just before his time the very essence of what he preaches, simple teutonic, non fussy and well designed german cars. He has created an aggressive italian look which belongs in italy at Alfa. The lights both front and rear are a disgrace with their fussed up confusion. His only reason for espousing ‘no change’ is because he is a one trick pony and that is why all his cars look the same. No more VeeDubs for me until this idiot moves on !! Bring back Peter Schreyer, he provided the foundation for all the cars that deSilver has ruined.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    i for one am tired of all the stupid swoopy cars designs like the current hyundai and gm crop. though gm makes more angular but still swoopy cars.

    i mean why are rear windows the size of port holes instead of, you know, windows?

    makes we wonder why car designers get paid at now these days…arrrrg!

    ahhhhh, i do feel better, thanks for the venue.

    • 0 avatar
      Goatshadow

      Agree with Hyundai’s current design being too much. Also, Infiniti’s look left “classy” far far behind and become a Rococo nightmare, with the rest of Nissan slowly following behind.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      These “over-designed”, “flame-surfaced” cars like the Sonata generally don’t age well.

      It’s strange. I originally thought that the Sonata was a great looking car. It was eye-catching. But the more I see it, I find it less and less attractive. It already looks outdated, and it really isn’t even that old.

      I haven’t felt a car age so quickly so fast.

      Some designs. Like the C6 Audi A6, which is near 15 years old, looks amazingly modern and attractive. Its a car design that’s aged well. I still admire it everytime I see it.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I HATE Hyundai’s current design language. I have always hated it, and I am mistified at how anyone likes it. I am disgusted at how other companies (like BMW) are also jumping on the swoopy crease bandwagon. I know many people here hate Toyotas for being bland, but I would gladly take their most boring-looking car over any of these things.

      I also like windows, and I hate how the trend in car design has all but made windows useless. I hate the Nissan SUV-style 3rd window shape–might as well just make it a panel van. Change the design trend, and you can bring back the windows, and then we won’t need all the cameras, radar, and other gizmos to do what can be done by simply being able to see.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I would agree with the statement.
    The current Acura situation is another example of “overdesign”. Most of the cars look like they had twice as many designers working twice as long on many details. To no good result.
    There is a difference between “sweating out the details’ and “overdesign”. The former is good and desirable and the latter is undesired.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I would disagree on Acura. Acura is, of late, one of the few NOT guilty of overdesign (after a few years of issues). The new RDX, RLX and ILX are actually very clean, very classic designs. There are no stupid LED lights festooning the front end, few fussy details, and they are just clean well proportioned designs with good sightlines. Yes, the TL was initially fussy…but the facelift showed their direction towards cleaner designs, and they’ve stuck with it. Contrast this with Lexus (who used to be king of clean designs), Audi and BMW. Even the new Hondas have been very clean designs.

      • 0 avatar
        suspekt

        Amen brother!
        I will go one further:

        Acura MDX: 5 years into the design; still a head turner.
        A genius mid-cycle refresh that could have easily been the original launch model but wasn’t. In fact the launch model was the embodiment of minimalist design when it came to the f/r bumpers. The overall form and sheet metal was so well executed that the “bling” (excess chrome, overwrought bumpers, etc) wasn’t necessary.

        To this day, I honestly still believe the MDX wrote the book on several design schemes. No flash, no excess. Pure design.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        > Acura is, of late, one of the few NOT guilty of overdesign (after a few years of issues).

        +1. The new RDX looks great in person, and even though it’s a ‘boring’ colour, the shape of the RDX shows off silver very nicely. And the much maligned ILX, except for the belt line flare, has one of the cleanest and tidiest 3/4 views, the C pillars, trunk line and taillights all work together.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        hey suspekt:

        MDX: 5 years into the design? Try 7 years (late 2006 release). I was there, man…lol

        In those 7 years, the design was refreshed but once. From the highly attractive ’06 design to the ‘power beak’ YUCK!, evolution to the 6-spd trans, heated/cooled seats et. al.

        That notwithstanding, the MDX is truly a good vehicle, especially compared to RX350, X5, Q7, et. al. In fact, the dealer I work at sells MDX to mostly ex-German SUV owners (as well as the occasional Explorer/Suburban trade). Let’s just say there have been quite a bit of BMWs and Benz on our used lot.

        Hence why Acura (rather wisely) decided against any major changes to MDX for the ’13 model year. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

        P.S. sales for ’12 MDX in August ’12 – 5,549. Sales numbers for its nearest competitor, Lincoln MKX, were unavailable at this time. (Spare me the ‘Lincoln and Acura should be axed’ comments, boys :)

  • avatar
    EEGeek

    I agree with de’ Silva’s sentiment. My first thought on seeing the new Hyundais, in particular, is that while it’s new and kinda cool, it will quickly look dated. I think the “because we can” school of LED use will be much the same way.

  • avatar

    I would like to agree and agree with you Derek that much of it follows regulations.

    Some observations:
    – Fusion is an example of swosshyness done right. Sonata is just too much.
    – Clean doesn’t have to be minimalist or boring. Little, well-planned and design details make a clean design that much better.
    – De Silva, who penned the Alfa 156, one of my favorite all time designs, is of course selling his own fish, so…

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Overdesign or underdesign it’s still a piece of junk VW underneath.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      lipstick on a pig (unless it’s a TDI). No amount of lipstick will make that pig worth any more at the market.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The US is a very small piece of VW’s success. The important markets for VW are the ones where their biggest competitors are similarly disposable, whether it be French and German cars in Europe or GM cars in China. In those places, VW’s timeless styling can make a difference in retained values and cost of ownership. In the US, they’d need to make cars that are still reliable with 100,000 miles for resale value to become a selling feature.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        I work in the Districto Federal and already knew that I cannot pull out from blind on ramps to the periferico without smashing into a Jetta Classico, Nissan or crap-tastic Seat (Fiat/Peugeot/Chevy/Hyundai in smaller numbers). I also think that maybe tooling feasibility on the new ‘over designed’ vehicles may not line up with the ‘run the tooling until it’s dead’ production VW has a penchant for. VW still has a premium feel to it compared to it’s competition in this 2nd world nation (that isn’t saying much, either).

        I entirely agree with you and my comment was directed at the volume of the NA market.

  • avatar
    threeer

    While style is highly, highly subjective…the styling of the Sonata was one reason why we passed on it, there was just a general feeling that in 10 years, it’d be way dated. I guess I always appreciated the evolutionary design theory versus revolutionary. If I’m going to own a car for 10 years, I don’t necessarily want it to be outdated the second year I’m driving it. Mercedes, BMW and VW used to be pretty good at that practice. And I for one tend to like the new Golf pretty well, as far as design goes…

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      +1

      The Sonata is going to look terrible in 10 years. I forsee a “1996 Taurus Effect” for this current gen Sonata – somebody thought it looked good at the time, but 10 years later we come to find it was a terrible, terrible mistake.

      • 0 avatar
        hachee

        I don’t disagree that this Sonata will probably not age well, but I think it was the smart move for Hyundai. It really shook things up, and built on the slowly improving quality reputation (which was certainly aided by that long warranty). But it won’t matter, as there will an all new design in 2 or 3 years.

        The difference between this and the Taurus is that there are a LOT of people who like the Sonata, even if they only do right now. The Taurus, however, while there were admirers I’m sure, turned a lot of people off with that look.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Hardly anyone liked the 1996 Taurus when it debuted. It was readily apparent that Ford had made a major miscalculation with that car.

    • 0 avatar
      Polar Bear

      The Sonata looks cheap already. No comparison on price, but one of the great things about Mercedes-benz is that they age well. I saw a good condition approx. 1996 E- class today and I had to think for a little while before I realised it was that old.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    I would agree with his statement. To me, you can have one or two models that are outside of the box so to speak, but when everyone starts doing it, it gets old very fast. Just look at the “new” Fusion. Rather than looking sophisticated, it looks like it’s really trying far too hard to be something special, and it comes off as cheap and fake.

    The new Jetta and Passat are very good looking cars, but understated. Where the Passat is James Bond, the Fusion (and to a lesser extent the Sonata) are more Austin Powers.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      Myself i like the new Fusion, i think it splits the difference between the overstyled Sonata and the boring Passat nicely.

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        The only thing Ford got right with the Fusion styling is the fact that the door handles are even…unlike the Fpucs, Fiesta, Taurus, etc where it makes it look like the car is constantly driving downhill.

        Otherwise, it’s frumpy proportions, gaping fishmouth grille, and ricer tail lights just don’t go together.

        Not to mention, copying an already done design shows a complete lack of design ispiration and skill. The Fusion looks like a cheap Chinese rip off of an Aston. It would be right at home sitting next to the fake F-150 we saw in TTAC a while ago.

        Plus, how hypocritical is it of Ford to rip off someone elses design when Ford sued Ferrari for using “F-150″ on one of their F1 cars? So, once again, Ford has no problem ripping people off (direct injection, SYNC/MFT, this new Fusion design), but yet throws a tantrum when Ferrari uses F-150 for an F1 car.

  • avatar
    cdakost

    I think the Fusion is a very classy and sophisticated design, but the new Cadillac XTS is a perfect example of over-design. GM as a whole tends to almost try too hard to make their cars look good and in the process ruins them. Another example is the new Malibu with its little “corner splitters” that stick out of the front corners.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    In the battle to become the World’s No.1 automaker, his statement has 100% merit. The top 3’s bread and butter cars are all understated (bland-ish) offerings which agree with many and offend very few. And undoubtedly it works.

    But I think that “over-design” will always be around in some form, and come in and out of ubiquity among the smaller manufacturers, particularly when they have to make the “look at me” statement in order to differentiate themselves from the beige pack.

    On a personal note, I like a bit of dramatic design that’s done well and tastefully and not shocking for the sake of grabbing attention.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Its a pretty bizarre dichotomy that cars are becoming more durable while getting faster aging designs. Yes yes not as durable as a W123 Benz, but more durable than the valley of the late 90s for sure. Especially when you factor in that folks are holding onto cars longer and buying less new.

    The trick will be for manufacturers to capitalize on folks keeping cars longer, which is tough as free maintenance has become another volume pumping carrot.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I’m dating myself here, but in the 1960s and 1970s, cars became “dated” from a styling standpoint in as little as 2-3 years. Unless it was something like a Plymouth Valiant, Lincoln Continental, Volvo or VW Beetle, a three-year-old car looked OLD during that era.

      Three of those four were driven by people because they weren’t interested in styling, and wanted everyone to know it, while the Lincoln was hailed as a “timeless classic” almost from the day it was introduced.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Sorry, I’ve owned a w123, and we had them in the family from new back in the day. Durable, yup! Reliable? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA by modern standards not even remotely. And the amount of scheduled maintenance needed to KEEP them to that level of reliability would cause modern car buys to lock thier wallets in a safe. And this was a car where having power door locks and A/C was the hieght of high-tech luxury. W123s don’t even have power mirrors!

      Take off the rose-colored glasses kids, the good old days are NOW. Even for German cars. I will admit that the early 90s were a BAD, BAD time in Germany. That was 20 years ago though. Modern cars are safer, faster, more fuel efficient, more reliable AND more durable than anything that has ever gone before. They just keep getting better, and they are cheaper than ever when you adjust for all the content that cars have now. Nobody wants to drive a penalty box.

      As to the styling, I agree – time for simpler to come back in style. Along with actual glass area, and rear seat headroom, and station wagons. Style is always cyclical, the past 10 years or so was like the overdone 50’s all over again.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Timelessness will always beat of-the-moment styling cues, but it’s not over-design that bothers me the most these days. It’s the absolutely lack of glass. Every call looks and feels like a tank. High belt lines, shrunken roofs, and just absolutely terrible visibility out the back. And the industries answer to all this……backup cameras of course.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Which is why two cars from the 80s are still my favorites (well, behind my much-loved and missed BMW 2002)…the E30 3-series (talk about a straight-lined box on wheels)…and the 1988-1992 Honda Civic. Very open glass, airy and light. I see them off and on here on the road and smile. Sure, I know folks will comment about the improved safety and reliability…got that. But I do miss me an open greenhouse…

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        Is there any hope of getting decent windows again? Is it true the high belt line and claustrophobic cabin is more fashion than safety-related? And isn’t good visibility a safety feature in itself? I see little Asian ladies in these cars and they can hardly look out over the steering wheel.

  • avatar

    VW designs hold up great over time. Industrial designs, that is.

    Until we see something as lovely as a GEN-IV Jetta with the durability of its Camry counterpart 5-10 years down the road, de Silva’s quote is hollow and totally not-reassuring.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      My wife still loves her 2000 Jetta and doesn’t want to get rid of it until it’s completely dead because of the excellent design of the A4 Jetta/Golf. Since she first saw the 2005.5 Jetta she said the newer VW cars look like Japanese cars. While they’re not as Corolla-ish now, I think the only good looking VWs are the CC, Golf based vehicles and the Tiguan/Touareg. Basically anything they haven’t Americanized still looks okay.

      Hyundai’s vehicles are way too cartoonish for me, and Mazda also has the same problem. I bet people will end up dumping them quicker than a more understated vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Bugeye

        I own a Tiguan and I have to say they are the most pointless motor car. Incapable of any rough stuff at all. I wonder if the interior designers have ever driven cars. Did VW designers forget all the years of design learning when this car was designed, it is rubbish!! Now with the bad press VW are getting it’s resale value is even rubbish, the final sting in the tail. Looks like I’ll just have to drive it into the ground. But I cannot agree with the styling on the Tiguan, it is bland and impractical. I bought this car because our 2000 Passat V6 was and still is the best car I have ever owned and I imagined other VW products would be just as good. WRONG !! I guess all the real designers moved on eh !

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      That car is called the 2006-2012 Ford Fusion. You can get a great deal on one with the 2013 just arriving. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      The GEN-IV Jetta is still being pumped out in Puebla, Mexico. You don’t have to worry about never seeing it again as it’s the Panther of Mexico. Taxi’s prefer that or the cockroach Nissan Sentra B13 (Tsuru, baby). I actually just smoked a B13 with my company car in traffic the other day. Dude drove off after he pushed out the dent in his drivers side door from the inside.

  • avatar
    Keith_93

    Someone probably also said that in 1962. It will never be true – there will alway be car designers that overreach. Just like there will always be graphic designers that think 17 different fonts on a page is being creative.

    It would be such a shame if all designs were tasteful. Think of all the entertainment provided to mankind by the Azteks, Pacers, Cubes and the 2015 itsgonnahappen.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    “Over-design” is subjective (personally, I don’t care for Audi’s LED mascara). Bad design is not subjective. Buick is pretty bad in this regard, tiny rear windows, full-sized partial hybrids with no trunk space– designs that destroy functionality–probably not dead, but should be.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I don’t agree. Consider that the statement was made by a company with the blandest designs around, except for Honda.

  • avatar
    espressoBMW

    I wonder if individuals who lease would tend to gravitate to the “overdesigned” cars. Those individuals will always be driving a car that is probably less than two years old. They won’t be concerned with how the design holds up over time. Then it will be the dealer who tries to sell the CPO’d vehicle after the newness of the design has faded away.

  • avatar
    jconli1

    Wholly agree. Case in point : the new Hyundai Tucson to the Kia Sportage or the new Accent to the Rio. Even on the same platform, one is a swoopy, overdesigned mess, and the other is clean, simple, and attractive (owing to the man who gave Audi and VW their current trends, of course).

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Hyundai is toning down their design language (see new Santa Fe), but at the same time, it wouldn’t make sense for Hyundai and Kia to have similar design language since they can appeal to buyers with diff. aesthetic preferences.

  • avatar
    fintail jim

    I think we need to draw a distinction between design and styling. Design results in a form that is directed by function, – “form follows function,” – even to the point of blunt front ends and high deck lids in some unfortunate circumstances.

    I believe “styling” has come to the fore in automobiles as it has not since the late 1950’s. I find most of today’s offerings unattractive and, indeed, apt to be quickly dated.

    Call me stodgy but my favorite “design” was my 1995 Mercedes-Benz E320 Coupe. Yes, it was almost austere but, just as LBJ did when driving his Elwood Engle Lincolns, I felt “smart” behind the wheel of my Benz.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    There’s plenty of room for all designs, and even though I strongly dislike some (like Hyundai), I still welcome the variety. It would be terribly awful if all the cars on the road look alike.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    We’re going to have to learn that Chinese consumers’ tastes trump US buyers’. Big grills(not needed), big rear seats, flashy lighting for night time; these are Middle Kingdom preferences. Da Silva’s meisterstuckes are just as obsessed with these imperatives, in fact, are leading the way.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    In the car biz, the name of the game is: There’s an a$* for every seat.

    Even the Aztek had takers.

    So you have Nissan making a Cube while also offering a Juke.

    One, understated and simple. The other, over stylized and swoopy.

    Both taking modern trends to their logical conclusions (albeit on opposite ends of the design spectrum).

    I don’t think either is good or bad, or that the prevailing trend is for one over the other. For de’Silva to claim VW has a lock on the new, upcoming simpler design trend is merely justification of VW’s Teutonic-ness. “We are doing less, and that is more!”

    Maybe. And for the a$*es that prefer that kind of seat, surely.

    However, at the same time, Sonata continues to do well, and the Asian car makers as a whole are successful with the organic design theme.

    Both trends will continue. It’s a good thing, too. Keeps us interested. Keeps car design relevant.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Is de’ Silva on the right path?”

    For Volkswagen, this is certainly the case.

    For just about everyone else, it isn’t.

    The approach taken by VW is nothing new, and works well for them. But for others to copy it would leave those companies vulnerable to being squeezed by the likes of VW.

    There are styling trends that come and go, and then come again. Some consumers want consistency and stability, but others want change. There is a market for either approach, and it makes sense for some companies to focus on either one or the other, since they can’t do both.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    “de’ Silva told a group of assembled journalists that “overdesign”, his term for the recent spate of flamboyantly styled vehicles is now passe, and that the future belongs to clean, minimalist design.”

    It seems to me that the overdesign of the last decade or so was a reaction against the clean, minimalist designs of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Remember when all the new cars and trucks looked like they were carved from a bar of soap? This trend started with Audi and Ford in 1982 and quickly spread throughout the industry. By the end of the 1990’s the jelly bean look had run its course and we started seeing a move toward more flamboyant designs like Cadillac’s Art and Science, Ford’s New Edge and BMW’s Flame Surfacing. In time the current trend will become old hat, but it does not appear we are there yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I believe that styling advanced thanks to the rampant computer processing power updates at the time, the more computers improved the more detailed styling we got.

      Frankly I liked it better when we used rulers and a pencil.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    > t seems to me that the overdesign of the last decade or so was a reaction against the clean, minimalist designs of the 1980′s and 1990′s.

    I see it more as an outcropping of the excesses of the early part of the 2000’s and the rise of affordable luxury. Design in general became more vulgar (in the classic term) and gaudy because it was speaking to the mass market newly rich (or those who felt newly-rich). Meanwhile, true luxury and timeless design are still the domain of the upper crust. No matter what year it is, if you go into the menswear section, the cheaper dress shirts are the ones with the bold colours and bright patterns, while the quality ones are the ones that are subdued and timeless.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    So “overdesign” is dead and every vehicle will be a bland-mobile that is indistinguishable from the previous model year? If true what’s the point of buying a new one if it looks the same? Guess if you’re driving a VW you have to buy new when the old one falls apart on you. So it makes sense a VeeDub guy would say that. Then again he’s not very in-tune with consumer sentiment.

    Why do you think the fashion industry puts out new stuff all-the-time? It sure isn’t because everyone has worn out their current wardrobe. No, people want to be seen in the new stuff. Vehicles are no different. I for one have all but written off looking at the “new” Accord because it looks waaaay too much like the old Accord. I didn’t like the old one hence I don’t like the new one, features be damned.

    “Timeless” is a cop out. Styles change, public taste change, regulations change, etc. etc. A vehicle should adapt…and radically…if the market dictates. Keeping the same appliance design for 25+ years is an easy way to make money, but it’s lazy.

    Overdesign is what gives us classics. Not every one is a winner but hit that sweet spot and you have something that is more than just a transportation appliance. Here’s to hoping the manufacturers keep their designers on staff and keep going radical. Life would be pretty boring otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      So ugly cars make your life fun? Alright.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      No doubt people like to be seen in a “new-looking” vehicle. But, if their current one looks dated, that will hurt the trade-in value. And most people need to bring as much to the table as they can when buying a new car.

      The 2013 Accord may look boring to you, but to the general public, it is competitive with other family sedans there, and doesn’t automatically make the 2008-12 generation look obsolete. Which is greatly appreciated by the large number of people driving around in 2008-12 Accords.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Acura NSX, (FD) Mazda RX-7, Ford GT40, the Jeep lineage…most agree that these are “timeless”, and yet are anything but boring.

      Both timeless and classic designs become that way through ORIGINALITY. Some classics are “overdesigned” – and can be beautiful – but those are not generally “timeless”. Designing a future classic that IS “timeless” requires a balance of creativity and restraint – such a skill especially deserves respect.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “If true what’s the point of buying a new one if it looks the same?”

      I don’t buy new to get new looks. I buy new to maximize lifespan & warranty, to not worry about hidden ‘presents’ from the previous owners, for the latest improvements under the sheetmetal, and for peace of mind.

      IMO, if looks are the reason you’re buying new, don’t be surprised if it turns out like marrying for looks.

  • avatar
    Skink

    I’m bored by Audi’s ‘same (sausage), different length. Hyundai’s Sonata is selling like hotcakes in part because of its involving, crisp, swoopy, yet unified design. Hyndai’s CUVs, on the other hand, are mishmashes of curves that look as though they were left out in the sun and warped. They’re so sadly misshapen they go beyond weird. Same goes for Nissan’s FX and Juke. Though I like the FX’s zig zag rear quarter window and trim.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    While I do agree with Silva, I think that newer VWs are still over styled.

    If you ask me I’ll be hard pressed to find anything that really stands out or that’ll age well these days, I saw a Dart yesterday and that could’ve been any modern sedan!

    I can’t stand styling excess myself, it just wastes tons of money and only promotes over consumption of cars and increased debt.

    For the record, “good” styling is what you find on Model Ts, old Volvos, Panthers, and old B bodies. Functional, tasteful, timeless, and simple.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    What does anyone at VW know about over-designing anything? Their most outrageous styling effort ever has been cutting down the rear of a couple of roofs from time to time on their bricks, so they can call it coupes? (Golf/Scirocco, Jetta/Corrado, Passat/different Passat) and once, only once making a slight bend in the side profile of a 2 door A4 (making the first, only and last, really nice looking Audi ever)…Compared to any generation Golf any Generation Civic looks like an Ed Roth creation…

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I hope de Silva is right. I think we’ve been living through the worst age in car design since then mid ’70s. The difference is that the exceptions to the superficial ornamentation and hideousness of the ’70s are the biggest perpetrators of heinousity this time around. BMWs with chrome medallions on the flanks? Mercedes with faux separate fenders? Hopefully the aesthetic reawakening will happen in time to prevent the new Fusion from becoming a ubiquitous eyesore.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    To me, the term “design” is the opposite of “efficiency”. The “swoopier” a car is, the less efficient use of space it makes.

    My ’05 Scion xB looks just like the crate it shipped in. It replaced a 1984 Volvo 245 that was almost as boxy.

    The box is efficient. Curves and looks never are.

  • avatar
    indyb6

    I have to confess, and I realize that I am very much the minority on this website (judging by all the comments), but I really like the direction most automobile manufacturers are taking with their designs and styling. I think the US consumer tends to be very conservative when it comes to buying things that he/she will be spotted in, in public.

    Look at clothing as an example. After 20/21 years of living, the average NA resident is taught to give up any flamboyant clothing in order to “mature”. As a male, I can confidently say that society tries to pressure me into wearing plain Polos (nothing too bright), Khakhi shorts and boat shoes (in the summer). Why? Because you don’t want to stand out. Because you want to fit in. Buy an iPhone. Why? Because that’s what successful people do. They don’t mess around with other phones, and almighty forbid, you don’t want to be spotted rocking a flip phone at a party. That is an immediate turn off.

    Look at housing as an example. People will have the most awesome looking interiors, but they will not deviate from 3 or 4 standard external colors. Even the interiors will gravitate more towards “earth tones” and minimalistic. That is not a bad thing, but the looks you get when you suggest anything that deviates from the norm – they are just WOW! I’m sorry. You can keep your bland. Now get off my back!

    It’s the same thing with cars. We have had a few articles here pointing out that automakers are complaining how the “4G Generation” are not buying enough cars. Well, what does that tell you? The average car buying demographic is much older than 20-25. As humans get older, their tastes change and they tend to gravitate towards simpler, functional designs, in my opinion. So, I can see where a lot of commentors here are coming from.

    I like the newer design direction that many automobile manufacturers have decided to stick to. Admittedly, rear visibility is really hampered by the said design language, and I would like designers to give more thought to outward visibility. I think designers are relying too much on blind spot monitoring systems and backup cameras and parking sensors. They should bring more thought and ingenuity to their designs, so that people don’t have to be enslaved by electronics.

    Hyundai styling is highly subjective and I can see why consumers have a love-hate relationship with it, but I am genuinely surprised that some people here think that Ford Fusion is a step in bad/overdone design. In my opinion, there are lots of blandmoblies to choose from, and the Ford Fusion brings a breath of freshness to the segment. Passat and Jetta are so bland now that they can easily get lost in the vast ocean of blandness that is the American Interstate Highways. Honestly, it is hard to tell what car is in front me if there is a white Jetta three-car-lengths ahead of me. I think some people like that trait about the Jetta, but it certainly is not for everyone. Passat is a worse offender. To each their own, I guess. But, de Silva should take a second look at the MKVI and the MKVII Golf before making a bold statement like that. Look at the two Golfs here – http://i.imgur.com/NYTOE.jpg and tell me which one is more ‘styled’. The new one clearly has more lines and definition and aggressive look than the old one. Is that guy seriously saying that MK7 is simpler (in design and styling) than the MK6?? You be the judge. I personally don’t think so. I have this to say about his statement – http://i.imgur.com/xuFpR.jpg

    A person made a great comment about the leasing vs buying consumer. The leasing consumer might be more willing to “go with the flow”, or rather “go with the fad” and buy ‘overstyled’ vehicles, but the consumer who wants to keep their car for 10+ years does not appreciate that. I see the merit & rationale of this argument to a certain extent, but I think it is a very personal decision that is influenced in part by the society that the consumer lives in. United States is a very conservative nation, both socially and politically and that shows in the car design and color offerings. But, at the same time, United States is a BIG nation that is incredibly diverse. Not everyone thinks alike and thus I welcome the change from Hyundai, Ford and others to give options to the consumer that does not want to settle for a Camcord.

    For the record, I am a B6 Passat (2006-2010) owner who intends to keep his car for at least the next 10 years. Thanks for giving me some space to rant. Hope I will hear constructive comments.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    De Silva’s comments do not bode well for VW’s goal of world domination.
    Manufacturers like Hyundai start with improved engineering and build quality (that even VW’s chairman is envious of). This results in enhanced dependability. Then to back up these gains a comprehensive warranty is added. But in today’s hyper competitive market, even these considerable advantages are not enough to increase awareness and market share.
    So, in the case of the Sonata, Hyundai has created an expressive, unified, sophisticated design that along with rock solid dependability and a comprehensive warranty has changed perceptions and boosted the visibility and sales success of the brand.
    The Sonata’s design is not “over” anything.
    I’ve studied it quite a bit since it’s introduction and it is unique in its class. In a world of “cars by committee” I would argue that there is not one uninformed line in the entire design. It has an unbroken flow from front to rear, top to bottom, exterior to the interior. The surface detailing on the hood and grill is subtle, the bright work that runs from the headlights up through the rear of the DLO is the kind of design touch only found on more expensive cars.
    You may not prefer/understand the design of the current Sonata but you cannot deny its success.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The problem with the Sonata is that it copied the then-current (and already five-year-old) Mercedes CLS to a good extent. Even the initial ads (remember the cops eating caviar and the workers eating lobster?) suggested that it looked and felt like a luxury car for a much lower price. The CLS, like the Sonata, was stunning when it came out, but the styling cues began to look forced/droopy (i.e. different for the sake of being different) as time went on. The Sonata’s styling continues to stand out, but as time goes on, it’s not standing out in a good way.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Actually, it was the VW CC that copied the side/greenhouse of CLS almost verbatim.

        The Sonata’s greenhouse is more shaped like that of the Audi A6 (which was copied by the Ford 500) but sleeker, with Jaguar doing a more stretched version of it for the XJ.

        Incidentally, Mercedes new design language which was laid out by the F800 Style Concept borrows numerous cues from Hyundai.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Dear God, I hope deSilva’s right. The cleanest of today’s cars look fussy, while the worst look like they were doodled on for too long. I truly begin to think that tattoo artists are crossing over into auto design. I prefer the best VW designs of the turn of the millenium. If you get the proportions right, as that Passat and Golf did, the shapes come effortlessly. If you don’t, not amount of surface detail can save it.

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    After he sold out and went to Volkswagen, de’ Silva’s greatest design tool is now the Xerox machine. In that context it’s probably a good idea for him to keep all the fuss to a minimum on his single, reusable design – he risks fewer distortions when he presses the “magnify” or “shrink” buttons (depending on what car segment he needs the design for) on his photocopier.

  • avatar

    Yes, the Alfa 156 still looks great, even today. Let’s de Silva sell his own fish.

  • avatar
    bd2

    The thing is, VW designs, while clean and minimalist, also border on the bland (Jetta, Passat, etc.).

    Kia designs under Peter Schreyer do the clean and minimalist look with more of an aggressive/masculine edge (Optima, Sportage).

    However, some of the new Kia designs have been bordering a bit on being fussy with certain design details (front end of the new Forte).

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This is like the girl next door declaring that surely the cheerleaders won’t be getting dates for much longer.

    Appeal is in the eye of the beholder. There is someone for everyone.

  • avatar
    rampriscort

    The last serious “overdesign” era in North America was the fin era of the late 50’s. As much as some idolize it, it was actually a very short-lived phenomenon which by 1962 was all but dead. Like the current “let’s slap a couple of swoopy creases on the side” explosion, only one in a hundred of those fin designs failed to look like crap – but those exceptions are what is remembered.

    As to the reason it’s popular now, I think that once aerodynamic engineers determined that every car is going to have the silhouette of a Prius, either you fire the designers or let them play with putting a ridiculous headlight design or doing something weird with the wheel arches.

  • avatar

    It’s a risky strategy for VW to be so careful with design. Basically what they are doing is waiting for design trends to get established before they implement them. The new Golf is a good example. The cut line just ahead of the A-Piller curving over the hood. The cut line under the door handles etc. These are all design cues that other companies either initiated first or implemented in cars already on the road for several years.

    Also with the Golf there is only so much you can do with this design direction and then you start repeating design cues from older iterations of the Golf. This can be seen in the new Golf in the design of the C pillar. Looks just like the MK4.

  • avatar
    theditor

    Agreed. Now bring back Der Phaeton to the U.S.

  • avatar
    Jamez9k

    Toning it down a notch doesn’t have to mean bland or generic. It only needs to mean making a coherent, proportionally correct and most of all functional design.

    Personally I find the current state of automotive design so bad right now that no matter how many people comment to me on how ugly the Juke or Crosstour are I really for the life of me can’t see how they are any uglier than most other cars out there.

    For the record I drive a 2012 Mazda Pokemon special that I certainly didn’t buy based on looks.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Still waiting for the front Fender Ventilation fad to die.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Can I have a car with angles, corners, and flat surfaces again?

    Screw European pedestrians, I like angular front ends.


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