By on November 20, 2015

2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser

I recently got up behind a Smart car in traffic the other day, and I realized something: Smart has managed to do what very few other brands can boast about. They’ve successfully redesigned a car that sells primarily based on its style.

Now, you might think this is a bit of an unusual point, because you probably don’t think the Smart Fortwo is a very stylish car.

In fact, you probably think it looks like a shopping cart with alloy wheels. But hear me out, here, because I think one of the biggest challenges automakers face is redesigning stylish cars. And I think the good folks over at Smart deserve some credit for doing it right.

First, a brief overview of the problem. When you debut a car where style is the main selling point, buyers all want to be the first in line to own it. “THAT’S SO COOL!” people say. “I WANT TO BE THE FIRST TO OWN THAT!” And then they rush down to the dealership, and they pay over sticker, and then three years later they realize they’re driving around in a PT Cruiser.

This is the problem: cars whose primary selling point is style have almost no shelf life. When BMW redesigns a Z4, the new model is relevant for approximately four weeks before every cool L.A. mistress has one. Then it’s over. There’s a new Mercedes out, or an Audi, or a Land Rover that looks like it can probably take on the most challenging parking curbs at the Starbucks on Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard without a fight.

So how the hell do you redesign a car whose success is based on styling?

Many automakers simply don’t. The PT Cruiser’s early success largely revolved around its unusual design, which held considerable appeal way back when it came out. By 2005, it was clear that Chrysler had absolutely no idea where to take it next. So they did a convertible, and they body colored the bumpers, and eventually the car was a bigger joke than the marketing intern who gets her foot stuck in the printer.

But the PT Cruiser isn’t the only example of a stylish car that froze like a deer in the headlights after its initial success. In fact, there have been dozens. The Nissan Cube. The Lexus SC 430. The Chevy HHR. The Cadillac XLR. I could go on for days: “style”-based cars that earned some success initially, then fizzled out over time as their automakers had no idea how to redesign them.

And then there are the car companies who “evolve” the design. A good example of this is the New Beetle. First, we had the original New Beetle, which came out in 2000 to great fanfare. Then we had the “new” New Beetle, which came out much later to approximately the same fanfare a laminate flooring company gets when they put out a press release announcing the retirement of their vice president of sales for the eastern region.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

It’s the same story with the Camaro. In 2008, we got a totally new model that was truly among the coolest things on the road. In 2016, we’re getting an “updated” version that looks basically identical to last year’s model.

The reason for this is that Chevy and Volkswagen got themselves trapped. People loved the look of the Camaro, and they loved the look of the Beetle, and so the design folks sat around for days asking themselves “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?” And the answer was: barely anywhere. Smooth it out a bit. Tell people it’s new. That’ll do the trick.

Then there were the cars that suffered both fates. My favorite example is the Honda Element, which originally debuted to so much excitement at a time when most cars were pretty dull, largely due to its unabashed weirdness. People loved it. People went to the dealer, all excited for their box car, and they plunked down some actual amount of money to own an Element instead of a CR-V. And then once all those people had their Elements, sales stopped. So Honda employed both strategies discussed above. First, there was a redesign that you had to be a Honda dealer to spot. Then, outright cancellation. Nice.

2016 smart fortwo (47)But the Smart car is different.

Now, you might be shaking your head here, because I still suspect there is some chance that you do not consider the Smart Fortwo to be a stylish vehicle. But let me tell you something: the people who own them do. A lot of people in Europe buy this car because it’s small, cheap and parkable. Nobody in North America does. The reason people in North America buy this car is twofold: No. 1, so they can admire how cute their car is. And, also so they can tell their friends how they “don’t need” all that space.

And this year, the Smart Fortwo has been redesigned. And do you know what? Smart actually managed to successfully redesign a style-based car.

Unlike weak redesigns such as the “new New Beetle” and the Element, the Fortwo actually looks measurably different than its predecessor. And unlike the PT Cruiser and the Cube and the HHR and the SC 430, they didn’t cancel it. The new Smart is so different, in fact, that Smart owners might actually want to go on down to the Smart dealer and trade in their old Smart for a new one. How many Beetle owners do you know who did that? The answer is none, because instead they had their car towed into a Toyota dealer after a severe electronics failure, and they bought a Corolla.

The point is, it seems the folks at Smart have done the impossible: they’ve managed to come up with a desirable new style for a car that originally debuted with a desirable new style. “We decided we didn’t NEED all that space,” owners of the all-new Smart Fortwo will soon say to me, in the same condescending tone as ever. “In your BRAIN?” I will reply. And then I’ll saunter off, disappointed, because actually the new Smart Fortwo is kind of cool.

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112 Comments on “Doug Drives: The Problem With Selling A Stylish Car...”


  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    What a coincidence, a review on the new Smart will happen next week. Hmm.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Maybe it helps when you have a unique form factor like the ForTwo. All those other cars you mentioned are just variations on a theme– an Element was basically a CR-V with goofy doors. The New Beetle was just a less-convenient Golf.

    MINI was able to keep its thing going for a while, until the cars started growing to “compete” with other stuff that already existed. They left their small pond to swim in a big one, and started to drown. Now they’re just as big and have just as many doors as the cars other builders offer. Same thing happened to the Scion xB. They wanted to make it “competitive” and pretty much killed it.

    So I guess as long as you stay true to the vehicle’s original mission, and remember that “style” is more than sheet-metal deep, you’ll be OK. Because you are making Wranglers.

    • 0 avatar
      Ltd1983

      “an Element was basically a CR-V with goofy doors”

      And don’t forget it could only seat 4. I didn’t realize how big of a deal that rear center seatbelt is to some people. Every single person I ever referred an Element to came back with that same complaint, in addition to the shockingly low MPG’s.

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      Selling point for me was the cargo area of Element.
      Don’t care about rear seats, they’ve been stored in my basement.
      Throw in a large tarp in the back, and I’ve hauled mulch, garbage, fridge, etc.
      And my mountain bike goes in upright with both wheels on, and you can stand bent over in the back to change into ski pants, etc.
      Only thing I don’t like is the high RPM with 5 speed manual.
      If Honda still built it with 6 speed overdrive manual, I’d be trading in right now.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I’m going to call BS on the xB gen1/2 argument mainly because the 2nd generation faced a direct competitor in the Kia Soul. I feel like every time this argument comes up we all coveniently ignore the soul essentially stole the Gen 2 styling down to a T and sold for 4-5K less. Basically you got 80% of the room for 60% of the price. It stole the sales out from under Scion and Toyota’s refusal to budge on pricing (whether real or imagined) is what sent the xB packing.

      • 0 avatar

        But gen1 was such a cool-looking car, and practical as well. I think had they stuck with the original styling, they’d still be selling ’em in reasonable numbers. It started off a cult car, like the Old Beetle, and I think it could have continued for years. The Soul isn’t nearly as cool-looking,although it’s not bad. I’d have gotten an xB had it been a bit more fun to drive.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          The G2 xB is the one I own currently and it’s probably one of the slickest small cars you can own if you weren’t interested in CUVs back in 2008-10. They just let the design languish on the vine, when the new Corolla came out it should have gotten a refresh or even switched to the Yaris platform to go head-to-head with the soul on size and price.

          Gen 1 was narrow and slow, the Gen 2 remedied all those requests and really the soul followed the Gen 2 requests to a T, just built it on their smaller sub-compact platform rather than the compact. It’s an awkward position to be in since it’s pretty clear the G2 was the right direction but it never accounted for the Soul showing up so much cheaper to occupy the same market niche (and selling a healthy 100K units annually). Never mind that Kia pushed the Soul to the forefront of their marketing while Toyota continues to dilly-dally with Scion marketing so it’s hard to get a good bead on awareness.

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            Practically no updates to the car for 8(!) model years didn’t help a bit either. Outwardly the EOL 2015 is almost identical to the 2008 other than the grill, and it’s all the same under the hood.

            We love our 2013, don’t get me wrong. A blast to drive and haul stuff in. It is too bad Toyota didn’t refresh the car to keep up with the Hamsters.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      “The New Beetle was just a less-convenient Golf.”

      I have to disagree. For people of a certain age, the return of the general form of the Beetle was a nostalgic pleasure, and I even disagree with Doug that the redesign was a failure. For those of us who actually had an original Beetle, the new, new Beetle did a much better job of revisiting the original. It’s proportions were much better than the new Beetle, which looked like a child’s imagining of the original Beetle. I will agree, however, that both the new Beetle and the new, new Beetle lack enough functionality to make the nostalgia worthwhile.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave W

        I have friends who are on their 3rd new Beetle. They bought them because they are a lifestyle statement as much as anything (all 3 were/are Yellow, She is a gigantic Beatles and Barbie fan). Having spent more time in the back seat then I’d care to, and spent a bit of time in the front, it absolutely IS a less convenient Golf.
        When the New New Beetle came out they both (She sadly, He hopefully) said no more beetles for them. Now that they’ve been out a couple years, with nothing else hitting their style needs (a yellow Juke was halfheartedly looked at), they are now probably headed toward their 4th Beetle BUT only if they can find one in yellow.

      • 0 avatar
        greyjohn

        the “new”new beetle is nice to look at, but the nostalgia it promises is sheet metal deep. front engine, FWD and no where near as simple to work on. and it is lazy. its just a refresh of something you already know. i don’t think the author is really calling the car “ugly” outright, just lazy. its pandering and insulting if you think about it too long. the original new beetle at least tried to stake its own claim…

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I think it’s too early to crown Smart with this car. I have yet to see a new one on the road and my understanding is that once you own a Smart your next car is guaranteed to not be a Smart. I don’t think a redesign will rectify all the sorrow that comes with owning a Smart.

    I’ll give them credit though, my wife and I both thought the Smart was a good idea and attractive enough to consider. Those thoughts lasted about 2 months though and I have still never been in one.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The new one has only been on the lots for about a month now.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      I’ve toyed numerous times with buying a smart. My commute is 13 miles door to door in light traffic at relatively low speeds. Rarely, if ever, is there another soul in my car. I test drove a 2013 pure at CarMax the other day ($8900) and have seen numerous for sale a few years older for less, so it becomes a tempting proposition. A/C, stereo and a seat with a steering wheel. Got it. Yes, the pre-2016 variant has a transmission that truly takes some, um, getting used to. But for A-B transport twice a day for 20 minutes, no problem.

      I got very excited to see that the new smart comes with a goodness to gracious manual transmission but then there is the price…$14k(or thereabout) for a base smart! Yikes. Pass. I’ll either buy a several year old something or another for $10k or wait for the “Cliffs of Dover” depreciation to kick in a few years from now and milk my 2004 Lancer for a while longer.

    • 0 avatar
      Bowler300

      I sold my Samrt only because of the (un)mechanical device between the engine and the rear wheels. Smart claimed this was a “transmission” but I never saw any proof of it.

      The new model supposedly has a normal manual transmission option. I will be taking another look at one.

      (Long term plan: it will fit inside the toy hauler I plan to retire in.)

  • avatar

    People who made the unfortunate decision to own a SMART are better off just admitting they think its cute and they bought it for that purpose alone instead of trying to rationalize their decision by calling attention to its otherwise piss-poor performance as even basic transportation.

  • avatar

    I think GM may have inadvertently stumbled into the realization that a nice design on a solid vehicle can last far longer than the usual 6 year redesign as long as it’s updated enough to keep up with technologies and engine upgrades as needed.

    Think about it. How many trucks and landcruisers would Toyota sell if they still sold something close to an old hardbody or 60 Series Cruiser but with updated suspensions, engines and interior tech.

    Sometimes companies stumble onto a design classic that no matter what, anything that comes after is usually a disappointment. Ford knocked it out of the park with the new Mustang, but that’s rare. In general Fords start out a new body style ugly, and get progressively nicer looking over the 2-4 years of slight redesigning (Most recent Explorer).

    Some companies may be better off letting a design run much longer and just spend money keeping the tech up to date.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      GM is also known to run platforms forever whether they are “good” or not. If they stumbled into a good one, than kudos to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Remember that except for the departing Titan, Toyota is currently selling the oldest full-size pickup on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Toyota historically did not run its platforms for very long but then in the 00s started to do so with certain platforms (Camry XV since MY01, E120/30/40 for nearly fifteen years).

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        As the owner of one of those “oldest full-size pickup on the market” I want to say that I am pretty darn happy with my 2011 Tundra 5.7L RWD DoubleCab Long Bed.

        And I’m willing to buy another one of those “oldest full-size pickup on the market” when I finally receive my 2016 Tundra 5.7L 4-dr 4×4 Limited.

        What sold me on the Tundra was that magnificent 5.7L V8, the 6-speed automatic, the huge floating-caliper brakes and the 10.5″ ring gear, a lot of that “borrowed” from Hino trucks. Lightyears ahead of the others in 2007.

        Oddly enough, I remember Ford, GM and RAM all comparing themselves to the Tundra starting in 2007, and then mimicking the Tundra by putting in a 6-speed autobox, bigger brakes, and in Ford’s case, even a bigger ring gear, IIRC.

        After all that, I’m still not interested in again owning a Ford or GM truck. Been there. Done that. Never going back.

        And from the look of things, more people are catching on to Tundra.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Hey, I never said there was anything wrong with it. Old design=proven design. Also, Double Cab/8′ bed FTW.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          Blah blah blah. I just got a full-size truck. Drove them all and the Tundra is woefully outclassed by everything save the geriatric Titan which is not long for this world. It did offer throwback fuel economy though so I could pretend like I was driving an 80s F150 with a 351 and a C6 though. Seriously, I dig Toyotas…but they arent even in the same league as the domestics in the full-size truck market.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I haven’t driven an aluminum F150, but test drove everything when shopping in 2014. I didn’t care for the F150 at all. It was dismissed in minutes. The GM’s misaligned steering wheels and treating powerful engines like they’re something to be reserved for the 1% made me laugh. RAM wasn’t seriously considered because they’re still low quality. By the time we were done shopping, it was Tundra or no pickup at all. We got a 2014 double cab, long bed 4WD and haven’t looked back. It uses some gasoline, but if the company wanted to sacrifice to save a few bucks we’d have bought something inferior.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Same. Manufacturers spend a fortune to redesign the wheel ever 5 years, and the consumer is forced to pay for it. Consumers also tend to get annoying reliability problems because the engineering never fully matures in 5 years, and the parts are more expensive and harder to find. Progress is good, but the “all-new” platform swapping routine gets old.

      Nissan is probably the most conservative about reengineering their cars, but they are slowly losing their nerve. Titan has been redesigned. Frontier and Xterra are getting axed. They did a nice job on the mild facelift and redesign of the 2016 Sentra, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez_Returns

      IRC, Toyota basically does this already. They use the same chassis, engines, and transmissions across multiple generations, with mild updates. You’ll notice they’ve been very late to add direct injection, CVTs, and turbos to their lineups. I’m sure this is a big reason why their cars are so reliable. I’m pretty sure that the engine in my 2005 ES330 is just a revision of the 3 liter V6 found in the 1992 Camry. I remember when i was considering an early 2000 Corolla the salesman told me the generation after was essentially the same car with a more sloping windshield.

    • 0 avatar

      Isn’t GM is same company that produced Cavalier, ION, Cobalt, and Cruze? Not sure I see much of the realization in that sequence.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I think Ford actually has it right. They do generally stretch a “generation” to last eight to ten model years, with a heavy facelift in between. Generally, the pre-refresh version (take, for example, the 2007-2010 Edge versus the 2011-2014) looks like a first-draft, but that’s only after the post-refresh version has been released. With the notable exception of the Expedition and Navigator (which are now older than Methuselah), Ford’s designs rarely look out-of-date while they’re in production.

      As for GM, with the notable exception of the Lambda crossovers, most GM designs last the usual six or seven model years. And the outgoing Malibu suffered an unfortunate set of circumstances that led to a facelift after just one year, and a complete redesign after only three years on the market.

    • 0 avatar
      greyjohn

      whoa, watch them Mustang comments. no matter what, Ford has always made the American people had access to a Mustang since 1964. for better or worse (looking at you Mustang II). i think Ford actually has one of the fastest, consistent turn-around times for the Mustang. and they always sell like hotcakes (looking at you again Mustang II!)

      fun fact: i’m 28 and live in Central Texas and have NEVER seen a Mustang II in real life…

  • avatar

    The Smart has a major raison d’etre, because it is so parkable. If I lived in Manhattan, or Boston proper, I’d be sorely tempted. And it’s not the style. It’s totally the parkability.

    The PT Cruiser suffered from being a very lousy execution of a very interesting concept. You don’t put pokemon eyes on a vehicle that’s supposed to be retro! It also had terrible reliability.

    Style is skin deep. All else equal, I’d buy the more stylish car. But substance trumps style every time. The Smart’s big advantage is that for the denizen of a densely populated city, it’s got a lot of substance.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      I shopped the PT back in ’02. Loved everything aesthetic about it (’50s kid) but it was surprisingly crampy inside. God, how I wanted it to be 20% larger in all dimensions.

      • 0 avatar

        I like ’50s, too. But I thought it was a lousy rendition. The styling features were very indistinct compared to a real ’50s car. (Actually, I think it was meant to look like a particular 30s car (can’t remember which), in which case the styling features were far more indistinct.)

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          In the ’50s, though, you still had umpty pickups and utility vehicles running around with that separate-fender, roundy look. Shux, I learned to drive on a ’53 GMC.

          So I imprinted at an early age on blorpy, roundy vehicles; that’s what I was getting at with the ’50s reference.

          But, yeah, the look definitely appeared in and carried over from the ’30s.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          Chrysler Airflow

      • 0 avatar

        I had an ’02 PT Cruiser. I thought it was reasonably roomy. I once bought a pallet of ski boots at an auction and was able to fit the inside it, plus myself and my friend, who is a pretty big guy.

        My problem with my PT was a bunch of electrical issues. The gauge cluster went out. The transmission controller died. The air bag light would come on when it rained.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Well, I for one love the Element. And the new Smart, well, I dont love it, but its more appealing to me than the original ever was.

    I remember the frenzy over the PT Loser. I wanted to scream at people “YOURE BUYING A NEON WAGON BUILT IN MEXICO, AND PAYING A PREMIUM FOR IT!!”

    The Element was a unique take on the crossover. I liked it when it was new, and if I had the means, Id probably find myself a 4wd 5 speed version today. A goofy CRV? Fine. I dont like the CRV personally, its a good vehicle, but its too bland, too mainstream, too ordinary. Ill take the “goofy” option in this case, thanks.

    Likewise, I liked the Cube. I still do. Id get the above-described Element over it, but I think itd be a fine choice for a city car, if I was inclined to live in the city (Im not). The original xB likewise. There is one near me for $1500 (high mileage) and I actually caught myself thinking about it, lol. Im not seriously considering it, my significant other and I have already decided our next vehicle purchase should be a truck, since we already have a car that isnt going anywhere (my Taurus).

    You’ll never guess (those of you who know how much I dislike Toyota) what I found that Im trying to convince him to get.

    A JDM 1990 Toyota HiAce 4wd crew cab diesel 5 speed RHD cabover pickup. There is one in California with 110k on it for $10,500. Thats pretty steep, but you cant get much more unique and useful than a COE JDM truck lol!

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      You don’t get to say those things about the PT Cruiser.

      lol You drive a 1995 Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      @JohnTaurus – Yes, a PT Cruiser is just a Neon wagon: more useful than a Neon, but less fun to drive. It was never a great car, and it was never a terrible car. As such, I will never understand why it inspired so much love (dealer markups and buyer waitlists) in 2001 and so much hatred and scorn now.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I agree 100%. There isnt anything wrong with the concept, its practical and economical. But, so was the Focus wagon, and nobody went ape $#¡Г over it lol. It was the strong reaction to it that I just didnt get. I realize it was a lot more stylish than a typical small wagon, but still, it was nothing to crazy over in my book, certainly not worth paying significantly more for it than it was worth.

        If I had a Chrysler product of the era, it would be a Plymouth Neon 2 door 5spd or a Plymouth Breeze 5spd.

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          So we’re allowed to say such things as ‘PT Loser’ and infer whatever that name may infer– but we aren’t allowed to call-out terrible cars and the people that love them? Aren’t they one and the same?

          John– the neon coupe isn’t a product of the same era as the PT Cruiser. They were never available new at the same time.

          I currently own both and they’re both strong vehicles, but in different areas. The PT is heavier and more robustly built, but the neon is lighter and more sprightly. Both have been very reliable and have served their intended purposes quite well.

          The PT has been an absolute rock, reliabilitywise. It’s never broken in 110,000 miles– that’s more than I can say for the Taurus I owned.

          It still doesn’t make sense whyever someone’s allowed to call the car I drive a losermobile– but I’m not allowed to tell him taurus love invalidates that opinion.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            If it offended you, I apologize. However, the comment was not directed at you specificly. Making fun of the car is not the same as making fun of it’s owner. Im surprised that needs explaining. How was I to know you own a PT? Your user name suggests you have a Neon, and the Chrysler logo couldve been from a Canadian Chrysler Neon or something else entirely.

            Did I tell you that you cant say anything about my car because you drive that? No, and I wouldnt. That was why someone made a comment about it. My opinion of the car is not null and void because I drive something you dont like.

            I dont critisize others on a personal level (as you did) just because I dont like their car. I might say something to them for other reasons, but its usually related to their views and opinions as they contrast with mine. There is nothing wrong with that, we are all going to disagree with each other at some point. But, I wouldnt say “well you cant say that because you drive a Camry” or whatever. You couldve acted like a grown up and said “well, I disagree because I have one and…” but you didnt. Probably because there was nothing to disagree about, what I said about it being an expensive Mexican-built Neon wagon is a fact, not an opinion.

            Wow! 110K miles! Guess my 198k Taurus could never hope to achieve such glory. Yes, before you ask, original powertrain. My family and I have had several Taurus/Sables, all but the 2012 (with around 70-75k currently) made it to and well beyond 110k without issue. My neighbor’s 97 has almost 260k, still runs and drives fine. I had a 93 with around 300k when I sold it. It finally burned an exhaust valve was the only reason I got rid of it, but the guy fixed that and gave it to his brother who drove it for several more years until it finally gave up.

            You had a troublesom one? Great. Doesnt mean all were troublesom. Your PT is reliable? Lmao! That sure as hell doesnt mean they all were. Quite far from it. A friend bought a new one the last year they were offered. It has spent almost as much time in the shop as the VR6 Jetta it replaced. Granted, the repair bill is usually quite a bit less, but thats not unusual when comparing a German car to an American one (though they were both assembled in Mexico).

            By use of the word “era”, I was referring to cars produced AROUND the same time, if not the EXACT same time. The first gen Neon and the first gen cloud cars are from the same ERA as the PT, if not exactly the same years. My Taurus and the 1997+ F-150 are from the same era, but were not new on the lot at the same time. Again, I dont know why such a concept must be explained.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            John– a hollow apology followed by more insults is no apology at all.

            I’ll not respond to anything you say in the future and I’ll kindly ask that you extend the same courtesy.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            “[B]ut we aren’t allowed to call-out terrible cars and the people that love them?”

            Terrible cars, yes. People, never.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            So, youre unable to refute anything I said, therefor you are going to ignore it and pout like a little kid not getting his way. You have shown, with every post in reply to mine on this thread, that you are immature and a sore loser. Fair enough, thats as good a reason as any to ignore you.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            +1 on JohnTaurus.

            We make fun of terrible cars all the time. I own an Audi A6- I’ve even joked before that I may have “the only one that works”.

            The problem with the PT Cruiser that I see is spotty reliability- Chrysler had their issues. Every manufacturer does, but Chrysler had some big ones (Transmissions, anyone). Out here, PT Cruisers are not well-liked. We have a lot of snow, and from what I’ve seen (And heard from owners), they’re terrible in the white stuff.

            Let me also say that anyone who is driving a 20 year old, 200k mile car has earned my respect. I own a 1995 LeSabre with 225k on it (Original engine, used transmission installed at 218k). Sure, you can buy a new, trouble-free car. But, an owner who shows the dedication needed to keep one of these on the road has my utmost respect. I know there are days and breakdowns that are hated, but owning a car that is something you love is one of the best experiences out there- be it a 2013 Camaro or a 1995 Taurus.

          • 0 avatar
            bryanska

            “we aren’t allowed to call-out terrible cars and the people that love them? Aren’t they one and the same?”

            No, we’re not. It’s disrespectful to “call out” people’s love of anything. You might think a car is terrible, but it’s not to the person that loves them.

      • 0 avatar
        Johnster

        The thing about the PT Cruiser was not that it was a great car. It is that the newer, more recently-designed Dodge Caliber was even worse.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          +1

          Ironically the successful Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass are in fact… built on the Caliber platform (joint Mitsu/Chrysler venture)

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            This irony stuff can be pretty ironic sometimes…

            Was this the same platform as the Sebring? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any love for that car.

          • 0 avatar
            Discovery1

            To be fair, you may only call the Patriot/Compass even remotely “successful” due to fleet sales, and (arguably) the crash 2011 redesign that reimaged the latter into a 3/5 scale Grand Cherokee. Both are still utterly miserable offerings.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “To be fair” the Patriot/Compass were overpriced for what the buyer got, and the nit-noy problems that continue to plague them is what has made them miserable offerings with next to zero in retained trade-in value.

            In my area, many Patriot/Compass trade-ins are wholesaled to Mexican tow-car caravans to be hauled South of the Border.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Gosh, golly, gee. Who knew the Cube was stylish? The first time I saw one I couldn’t believe how nasty it looked. Mis-shapen was the word that came to mind as in asymmetric. Other people must have agreed because very few ever saw the light of day around these parts. Haven’t seen one in a while.

    The new Smart Fortwo is a short chassis Renault Twingo with styling considerably less svelte than the original, more like a bulldog in front. Not sure I’d call it stylish but each to their own. Canadian road tests say it drives much better, but as the cynical might note: how difficult would that be to achieve?

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      The Cube looks like it escaped from a laundromat.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      The previous generation of the Cube (which wasn’t sold in the US) was really great looking. But they xB’ed the crap out of it to make it palatable for Americans.

      http://momentcar.com/images/nissan-cube-13.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      The Cube’s boxy shape and asymetrical rear window are its styling points. “Stylish” doesnt neccesarily mean is going to appeal to everyone. Naturally, most stylish cars are polorizing.

      The 1996 Taurus (the oval one) was quite stylish, it just wasnt a style that was to a lot of people’s liking. The 1997 Camry that replaced it on the best-sellers list was decidedly not stylish. It was designed to not offend people, and in doing so, it was pretty much as exciting and thought-provoking as a new Kenmore deep freezer. It paid off in sales, there is no arguing that, but it pushed no boundaries and didnt envoke the strong feelings (either positive or negative) as the oval Taurus did. The 97 Camry couldve very well been the new Ford Tempo or Dodge Spirit, and no one wouldve batted an eye at it as such.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Plus, see what Ford did to the Taurus in 2000. They went more conservative. Today, that generation of car is regarded as boring and dull (I look at them like my oven). The 1996’s may not be universally-liked, but we remember them. And, I actually kind of like the Sables from that generation….

        In 15 years, who do you think will remember what the Ford Escort looked like? I think it’ll be less than those that know what the first generation Focus looked like….

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Isn’t this article about the supposed importance of styling on new car take rate?

          What do present attitudes about 15 year-old cars have to do with it? Old cars don’t matter to an OEM, they’ve already been sold.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Brand image matters. Chrysler may never be able to shed their image of producing unreliable cars. Quality matters more than styling, but styling matters.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            ” Chrysler may never be able to shed their image of producing unreliable cars”

            Chrysler actually got better when Daimler got involved. The 300, Grand Cherokee and RAM are the best they’ve ever been, and the best vehicles Chrysler ever made.

            I didn’t believe it either but our experience with our 2012 Grand Cherokee was actually good – not perfect, I had to inspect/correct the recall issues myself – but good overall.

            Chrysler is not Toyota-grade, and will probably never be Toyota-grade, but Chrysler has improved tremendously since my days with the Grand Wagoneer, Wrangler and ’96 Cummins RAM.

            Now, those were bad, bad vehicles!

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            @matador
            But you guys weren’t talking about quality which *does* matter over time and can make or break future sales. You only discussed styling.

            Styling is as ephemeral as it is subjective. And judging it with 15-year hindsight is silly unless you were one of those who purchased new back then when it may have mattered.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Chrysler is stuck with one word that will haunt them for a long, long time: Ultradrive.

            I asked last week for some cheap car recommendations. The only Chrysler product that I remember being mentioned was the Dodge Diplomat- a car that’s almost 30 years old. I’ve owned two Dodge trucks (A 1986 D250 and a 1992 Dakota), and I’ve loved them both. But, cars, that’s another story.

            RideHeight does have a pretty good point- that quality matters more than styling. But, both matter. We had a 1989 New Yorker. The transmission remembered that it was an Ultradrive, and we walked home that day. That soured me a lot on Chrysler cars. But, the styling also matters. To me, the New Yorker always looked cheap and tacky, and “Iacocca Face” didn’t help. That altered my opinion of Chrysler, but it could have been worse- I had an opinion.

            I belive that where styling matters a lot in new cars comes in play in two places. First, you have to sell cars. The Dodge Dynasty was a very conservative design, and the Taurus a new, radical design. The Taurus was polarizing, but it drew attention and sales.

            The Dynasty was forgotten. That’s where styling matters after a car has been sold- you want people to notice your car, and be thinking of it. The worst thing that can happen is for people to forget that your product is out there. When you see an older Audi, you know what it is. That’s marketing- it’s not as good as other forms, but it’s marketing. The average car enthusiast will know cars by design, and will be more observant than others.

            The average person, though- they won’t notice transportation appliances that blend in. In that case, you can’t attract customers based on styling, because they don’t know about you. Then, you have to sell on reputation of quality. That works for Toyota and Honda.

            That’s why cars like the PT Cruiser matter- we recognize them. Everybody does. It has some brand value- subliminal advertising if you will. A car that isn’t noticed, though- it serves the manufacturer no purpose here.

            Just my $0.02 (Not adjusted for inflation)

  • avatar
    walker42

    You seem to be mixing up at least three different types of design strategy into one point about the Smart.

    I. Iconic styling in a mainstream shape — 70s-80s BMWs, Mustang, Camaro
    2. Iconic styling in a non-mainstream shape — Smart, Mini, Range Rover, 70s-80s Volvos, Porsche 911, Jeep, PT Cruiser
    3. Stand-out and attractive styling in a mainstream category — 90s Lexus SC300/400

    I see no problem at all with category #2 as a strategy, which is I think the kind of design you are talking about. In fact when you nail the look to start with this strategy is the easiest to manage. It requires less work and risk-taking and copies come off for what they are, rip-offs (Chevy HHR).

    If the ONLY thing going for a vehicle in category #2 is styling then once that gets old, and it does for any car, good looking or not, the sales tend to suffer mightily and there is little point in doing a replacement. The VW Beetle is the perfect example of this. It had and continues to have nothing going for it other than its styling. No extra utility like the PT or performance like the Porsche or perfect commuter size like the Smart or reliability like the Volvo. The Smart really could look like anything and be successful.

    Category #3 vehicles are the hardest to manage from an OE perspective. Hence you see things like the hideous SC430 potato car replacing the gorgeous but played-out SC400. The SC430 wasn’t a strategy error, it was an execution error.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I have disagree with you there. The SC430 has really grown on me – just was admiring one today at an auction. Of course it didn’t have the gravitas of the 911 next to it, but I see subtle design cues from both Porsche and Mercedes in its exterior and interior design. Plus Toyota reliability.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    It is kind of odd to lump the PT cruiser into the ‘style’ category when it clearly was the forerunner of the modern CUV. It essentially took the flat floor hatch style from Europe, beefed it up and sold itself as retro but it really was selling a tall wagon/CUV aesthetic people wanted. When they finally killed it off they basically had let the platform languish for too long to rejuvenate it rather than face a styling challenge.

    The counter argument would be the Prius, 3 generations deep now, all share a similar style, each has grown, and each has sold better than the last.

    The new mustang is yet to be proven but it definitely could fall into this same category since the redesign really turns the strong front fascia into a sports car roundness that we’ve just never seen in the Mustang. Since 1964 we’ve seen flat faces and strong sharp lines (even during the squircle days in the 90’s).

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      The PT wasnt lifted or offered with AWD. I think the only way it relates to the crossover is when you consider both as a more “hip” (or stylish) take on the station wagon. The crossover was already out on the market in the form of the Toyota Rav4 and Honda CRV before the PT was released.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I’d call the AMC Eagle the first crossover- AWD, more room than a sedan, and taller ride height.

        The Lexus RX is the first “modern CUV” to me. I’ve always looked at the PT Cruiser as a station wagon.

  • avatar
    daro31

    When I was a kid we could hardly wait for early peek-a-boo shots of new car designs, a blown back cover of a new hub-cap from a new model was in every newspaper like Kate Middleton in a bikini. Not so much anymore. I have a Jagaur Xk8 convertible, the same body style lasted for 8-9 years and if they made it again in a 2016 model I think it might make me run right down and buy it. There just isn’t a sexier way to bend metal than that. So perhaps it is the definition of style that is important. Just because something is different doesn’t make it stylish. If the car is stylish meaning comfortable to look at and perhaps a little exciting than that is the kind of style that matures.
    If it is a different just for the sake of being different to catch attention than it is not a style that will mature, it will just get old. And before everone jumps in to trash it, my 2004 Jag has 170,000 trouble free miles and still brings out feelings driving it that my very practical Dodge Grand Caravan never will.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      FWIW, I caught my first glimpses of the new F Type Jag in traffic today and was impressed by its stylish uniqueness and smooth lines. Definitely evoked the kind of feeling earlier “real” Jags used to.

      Definitely kicks sand in the face of newer Porsches, etc.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Style has nothing to do with the smart selling in Europe. European cities being dumpy old places built before wheeled vehicles is the reason such a glorified wheelchair is useful there. Besides, how much room is there to inflict styling on one?

    DeMuro would consider those ratcheted midget screwdrivers for tight places to be a style choice.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I once had an ’04 Element – so base that it had no ABS, arm rests, or even cruise control. It was a good city beater but the mileage was a bit of a disappointment for a 4-cylinder. Of course all that weight being lugged around didn’t help. But, with tinted windows, it was a good vehicle for catching a nap in the work parking lot.

    At least with _some_ iconic designs, there is a bit of timelessness to them. They age well. At least with Mini their designs over the years haven’t changed that much so most people can’t tell the difference. For example my wife has an ’03 Mini Cooper S with a very loud paint color and black stripes. It was someone’s summer only car so it only had 65k miles on it when we bought it last year. She still gets positive comments and thumbs up from complete strangers. It is a fun car to drive, though not my favorite for a long highway slog. But hey, she probably loves the thing more than me, so it stays in the family until the cost of repairs get too high.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    I think the poster child for this article was the original Ford Taurus. First generation was big hit; like the article said; second generation was a slight redesign, though few body parts were interchangeable.

    A Ford stylist confided that redesigning it was like “repainting the Mona Lisa”. But they did not cancel it; instead they gave us the “catfish” 1996-1999 Taurus; and unfortunately had someone write about a book about the whole process.

    Then tamed things down with the next generation in 2000. Then kept it around as fleet only till 2007.

    I was in the drive thru just yesterday where I saw a Smart with geometric designs all over it. I am guessing it’s owner had a wrap made for it. Definitely different.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    Another car that seems to have gotten ‘style’ right is the Challenger though. Every year they sell more than the year before. Which is unusual. And they don’t seem to even be trying to directly fight it out like Camaro’s and Mustang’s do. They just keep cramming in 8s and making the exhaust a little louder each refresh.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “Another car that seems to have gotten ‘style’ right is the Challenger though. Every year they sell more than the year before.”

      I think it is more than just “style”. What makes the Challenger so appealing is that it is vastly different and stands out in a field of contemporaries that look more alike each model year.

      Another thing about the Challenger is that in any trim or engine choice it performs exceedingly well, and you don’t need a sportscar body to get in and out of one. And it is pretty roomy on the inside too.

      A number of young military families in my area drive a Challenger as their one and only vehicle.

  • avatar
    dwford

    A good example of a style driven car that lost the plot in the second generation would be the Oldsmobile Aurora. The first gen was all style, the second gen was very dull in comparison. Same with the Hyundai Sonata.

    Seems like whenever an automaker gets too far ahead of itself with a design, the very next redesign takes a step backward.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I think that in terms of looks, the second gen Aurora has acquit itself well over time, but you are right, the first one was prettier.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The G-body Aurora was code named Antares and was supposed to be a new model initially sitting between the Intrigue and Aurora which would have been redesigned. Due to the phaseout, it replaced Aurora instead.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “The G-body Aurora was code named Antares”

          Not many people know that. How did you learn this? (you don’t have to answer that if you believe it reveals too much about yourself.)

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Except for the 1995 concept car, a Chicago Tribune article from 1996 is the earliest reference I can find to the Antares name:

            “Oldsmobile General Manager John Rock finds himself in a quandary about what to do with the replacement for the Olds 88 sedan coming out in the 1999 model year.

            Antares will be built off the same platform as the Aurora though it will be powered by a V-6 engine, while Aurora will continue to be powered by a V-8.”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I know far too much about GM product between about 1985 and 2005.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            To me, that was the second-most interesting time at GM after the early ’60s. The divisions were finally getting some distinctions again, in appearance if not in powertrains. And I’ve probably seen thousands of GM products from that era still prowling the roads, in various states of disrepair all the way up to looking brand-new.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I was quite a fan of all things Oldsmobile.

            My Stationwagon of Choice was the 1972 Olds Custom Cruiser, with the dual-opening backdoor and the rear-facing third seat — and of course, that marvelous 455 cubic inch monster under the hood. Family hauler with class! All done in pleather throughout.

            Then there was the brand new 1977 Toronado I ordered and picked up in Antwerp, Belgium. Wadda ride! It was like riding the fat lady at the local brothel. (only kidding – never screwed around on my wife)

            I actually regret selling both of those vehicles mostly because of the memories they held for me and the family, and all those window stickers from all the places we visited while in Europe. All those family pics around the cars!

            I was briefly interested in the Aurora. That V8 was something special, as were all of the Olds Rocket V8 engines. Chevy V8s never could hold a candle to the Olds V8.

            It was a sad day when GM decided to kill Oldsmobile. I would have preferred Buick to be led to the chopping block.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            You and I may disagree on a lot of things, but Oldsmobile has always been my favorite GM division. I guess we just like Oldsmobiles up here in Minnesota, ja.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I liked Olds as well, shame it couldn’t continue.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I think people can disagree because we’re not all the same, we don’t all have the same life-experiences, nor do we enjoy the same opportunities in life.

            We are each a product of our life-experiences and we each form our interpretations of the world around us based on our own life-experiences.

            And Olds was a good life-experience for me. Not trouble-free like my current Toyota products are. But I didn’t know any better back then.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Thank you for properly differentiating between “stylish” and “attractive.” Most stylish cars are actually pretty dang polarizing. That’s the point: they generate DEBATE. smarts, cubes, Jukes, PTs and Beetles ARE stylish, whether you personally like the looks or not, and they are damned difficult to restyle.

    Where I have to disagree with you is on the Camaro. The outgoing generation was striking at first but we saw so much of it before it cam out the newness was lost, replaced by the many compromises in its design.

    The sixth-gen Camaro may look a lot like the fifth, but I appreciate all of the efforts to “tighten up” and “refine” the design. Now it looks like a Gen-5 went on a diet and started exercising.

    I’ll name another stylish car that was a dead end: The Aurora by Oldsmobile. Such a sleek, dramatic-looking thing when it first came out, but when it came time to make a second generation, the passion was gone, as was the elegance and purity of the original design.

    In any case, unlike the Aurora, or any of the little “style-first” cars on sale today, the Camaro happens to sell quite well, especially considering it only comes in two doors, which a lot of the youngs look at and think “DURRRR HEY WHY’S THAT COUPE MISSING TWO DOORS?”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    For what it’s worth, the Lexus SC 430 enjoys hearty resale values. Ditto for the FJ Cruiser, another stylish vehicle that exceeded Toyota’s expectations by all measures. With the FJ Cruiser, in particular, some part of that is due to the equity in its Toyota-truck underpinnings, but it also aged well. For that matter, so did the SC 430 (even if it wasn’t nearly as exciting or youthful as the first-gen SC 300/400).

    And as far as successful sequels to stylish cars, those can go well, too. The Kia Soul—of which we own a 2014 example—has been a knockout success. The new Beetle (not New Beetle) is also handsome and was well-executed, although its lack of outstanding sales is mired in Volkswagen’s sky-high pricing and questionable reliability.

    But I think some cars are only meant to have a short window of production. I could hardly imagine a redesigned PT Cruiser with even 2009-era styling. It outlived its welcome and probably should have been exiting the market around mid-2005, at the latest. Besides, most of what Chrysler builds (especially when it was during the DaimlerChrysler era) is just doomed to suffer precipitous depreciation.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I have never seen one (Lexus SC 430) on any used-car lot anywhere! And I have bought three new vehicles from the same Toyota/Lexus dealer since 2008.

      Nor have I seen used LS, ES, RX.

      It must be that these used Lexii are pre-sold to eagerly waiting buyers in the wings.

      Or…………..they’re wholesaled to used car dealers in the Snow Belt, ’cause we don’t have rust in the arid Great Southwest.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I mean, here in Oklahoma, we *have* those cars on pre-owned lots; they just don’t depreciate as quickly as their competitors do. For example, a 2011 Lincoln MKX (first-generation; post-facelift) with navigation and sunroof can be had for around $20K. Same for a 2011 Cadillac SRX. But a Lexus RX of the same vintage…much closer to $30K. A Lexus LS can be had for the same price as an S-Class of similar age and condition, but when you consider that the LS would have been far less expensive when new, it’s clear that it depreciates much more slowly. I’m not sure why the SC has such high prices on the used market other than that there genuinely are few used examples. And don’t even get me started on Lexus LX values versus those of the Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

        But that pricing delta even extends to Toyotas. I was pricing large(r) hybrid sedans a few weeks ago, and both the 2013 Lincoln MKZ and the 2013 Toyota Avalon came up. I could get a 2013 MKZ Hybrid with navigation, blind-spot warning, etc for just over $20K. A 2013 Avalon Hybrid Limited? $26K…and with quite a bit more miles on it.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          You know, that’s interesting about OK. I didn’t know any of that!

          And I didn’t know that there was such a demand for the vehicles you mentioned. I knew there was on the East Coast, but I completely missed OK.

          I think I only know ONE person in the entire state of OK, who lives way outside of OKC in farmland country, and he and I go back to military days but still exchange Christmas cards every year. At least until one of us dies.

          Last pictures he sent me last year was of him and his wife standing outside of his house with his horses next to a new Escalade XL, with his old F150 and farm-home in the background.

          You presented me a completely different picture of Oklahoma.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Smart is among the worst selling small cars in the US, and I suspect that a lot of its deliveries end up as Car2Go fleet vehicles. It is a money loser in Europe.

    You may subjectively like the look if you wish, but it is an objective flop.

  • avatar
    candc

    Aren’t Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvd parallel?

  • avatar
    robc123

    So I should get my mistress a PT Cruiser?

  • avatar

    Dipping my toe into the water a bit – I liked the PT when it came out mainly because it would have fit my needs and had a form factor I found appealing. Never did get one as I could not afford one – and the fact that I drove my then current vehicle (an 84 Dodge Shelby Charger) for several more years until, at 406K it became unsafe to drive due to corrosion.

    I am a big exception to the rule apparently. I do not desire a change in styling to a vehicle I like. I would truly like to buy a brand new 84 Shelby like I had, warts and all, because I KNOW that car and what it will and will not do – AND I like the look of it. I would imagine I’d feel the same about a PT had I purchased one. I like the styling on the earlier Mustangs and feel the current edition unappealing. I’m sure it’s still a great car to own and drive, I’d just rather have one that’s a few years older for styling reasons. My mindset is that I’m going to have to do maintenance regardless, so style factors much more largely in my decision making process. If I recall correctly, my 84 was considered a fairly unreliable vehicle by those who know – which I discovered 2 years after I bought mine. I didn’t care. I took good care of the car and got what I feel was my money’s worth out of a vehicle I truly liked the look of.

    Thanks for the good discussion on this also. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    Your credentials as a young whippersnapper are showing. The first “New Beetle” came out in about 1971, with a redesigned front suspension that had a serious vibration/wobble problem at highway speeds.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    The PT managed to sell almost as well toward the end of its lifecycle.

    I’m half-serious about starting a website that debunks this urban myth about the PT sucking. Maybe it was produced a little too long, but it found a second life as a practical, affordable choice for low-income consumers. It also achieved every measure of success for a car except racing heritage (even though its Neon underpinnings were raced).

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Rental car lots were packed with PT Cruisers. Unfortunately, I ended up with a few of those myself.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Thanks for having a level head about this one.

      I’m in that second group– my car was a graduation gift to get me through finding my footing career-wise after school. It’s done a great job in those 8 years, and I’m finally able to replace it– but am not totally convinced that its necessary yet!

      The car, for me, was/is just an affordable, reliable runabout with some increased cargo capacity. The styling isn’t something I’d have chosen a vehicle based-upon, but it is kinda cute as a button– and its a stump-puller in first gear! That little 2.4 is really stout at the bottom!

      What I hate about the car is the attitude most people have about it. When I got it, immediately people started insulting it like I’d tried to pass off a bootleg Gucci bag as the genuine article. To this day, the car gets both compliments and hatred both. I’m ambivalent about the styling, but some people seem to need you to know they don’t like it for some reason.

  • avatar

    One pet peeve I have is when fender flares are broken by a door seam. When one is broken by a seem, it is as fake as the black plastic triangle posing as glass. See the picture of the PT above. It may be one of the biggest offenders ever.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Unfortunately success traps one into a pattern of repetition. If a car company, singer, rock band, motorcycle company et al come out with an iconic design/style/song they are often trapped by it until they flog it into oblivion. It is a vicious circular trap.

    A perfect example is Harley Davidson. They appeal to outlaw bikers, fringe outliers, and wannabe baby boomers. They have had very poor success expanding their market base. I have yet to see a “Street” 500 or 750. The Vr1200 was the only bike I found appealing but virtually everyone else had a better bike. Even Buell was destined to failure.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/21/the-best-motorcycle-in-america-not-harley-davidson.aspx?source=eogyholnk0000001&utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=article

      It may not be the best, but it has allure.

      If I could afford it, and ride without falling off, my choice would be a BMW twin. I was surprised to learn that they do not rate as high as a hog.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    @highdesertcat – the stats in that link are telling. A bike(or car or truck) can be one of the most unreliable out their but still rank as one of the most satisfying. That shows the power of brand image and fan’aticism’. All of the guys I know that own Harley’s are rabid about their bikes.

    If one looks at motorcycle sales in general the Japanese have reintroduced a slew of smaller bikes in the 125-250 range. They have had great success attracting new clients and riding the wave of popularity associated with motorcycles.
    Harley fans have the attitude that a 1200 or smaller Harley is a “woman’s bike”. That is never meant as a compliment. That very attitude is intimidating to new riders that don’t want to start out on huge 800-1000 lb bikes. It also has lead to an increase in MVC’s with larger displacement cruisers as new riders or returning riders buy too much bike for their skill sets. My brother hadn’t ridden much since his teens/early 20’s and I suggested he buy a used small bike to get his “sea legs” back. He was insulted.
    I used to see mostly young motorcyclists on sport bikes getting into serious crashes but now I tend to see more boomers on big bikes crashing.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Interestingly enough for my family, NONE of my children or grand children have taken to motorcycles, although they grew up with a variety of used motorcycles and ATVs in my household.

      But what galls me is to see these old codgers my age on their three-wheeler motorcycles. It’s OK for a lady to ride a three-wheeler, but a man!? Never!

      For a man to ride a three-wheeler is disgusting and reminiscent of riding a Big Wheel when they were kids. Most “real” motorcycle riders would strap on a side-car if they become too frail to hold a bike upright.

      I make a distinction between a long-fork Trike (i.e. VW-powered) and a Meter-Maid three-wheeler.

      Closest thing to a motorcycle IMO is a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Rides better than a bike on the open road, and it can go where road-riders fear to tread.

      The most popular Hog in my area is the 1380 Rubber Drive. Quite a number of them owned by old guys trying to relive their youth and failing miserably, and by young German military men.

      The Harley F150 pickup truck is also quite popular, usually indicating the driver is a fan of the Hog brand.

      And in my area, at my 4800ft altitude, year-’round biking is common, with snow and ice usually starting around the higher elevations. The Germans ride their bikes year-’round because they’re dressed for it in Leathers.

      Most common bikes ridden by the young US military people stationed in this area are usually a Japanese product, with the Hogs, Victory and Buell being the ride of choice for the German military stationed here.

      The Germans get to buy their bikes (and cars) “tax-free” under the reciprocal Status of Forces agreement, and upon the completion of their tour here, they take their bikes (and cars) back to Germany with them.

      Kinda a reverse of what American GIs did while they were stationed in Europe, way back when.


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