I’d love to know your thoughts on the proliferation of plastic cladding on pretty much every CUV/SUV on sale today. I’ve noticed that pretty much everyone does it now – Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Jeep, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, the list goes on.
Is this just lazy design? Is it easier to seal under the wheel arches when it’s a piece of cladding rather than sheet metal all the way? Have they just decided it’s a cheap way to make their cars look “tough”?
It’s not a lazy design, easier to seal, etc. The CUV cladding’s proliferation parallels the rise of the SUV in the last 30 years, from niche player (Jeep XJ) to ubiquitous roadside landmark.
And FWIW, car designers do get a crash course in marketing: I saw it for myself at CCS.
Which begs the question, why do people flock to the stereotypical SUV? It’s the tough, un-minivan style keeping everyone out of the best vehicle for their needs and into space/fuel inefficient, machismo-laden soft roaders based on sedan platforms with jacked up suspensions and AWD transaxles. Because First World Problems are both legit and a fantastic target for marketers.
CUVs must incorporate elements of wagons/minivans while aping the rugged handsomeness of off-road vehicles and even sleek sport coupes. If BMW’s Sports Activity Coupe isn’t proof of the CUV’s identity crisis, perhaps I give up. That said, today’s CUV’s intrinsic diversity is nothing if not boring.
So you deliver on this difficult-to-execute promise with plastic cladding: simple to make, easy to style up to your target market’s demands, and cheap to insure/replace. Like our last Vignette on plastic bumpers, this is one of the glorious benefits of plastics engineering. It boosts creativity, adds low(er) cost/high margin profits, appeases insurance companies and makes the majority of buyers happy enough to sign their monthly cash flow away for the next 2-8 years.
Put this another way: it’s all about the money, honey.
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