Vellum Venom Vignette: The Proliferation of Plastic Cladding

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom vignette the proliferation of plastic cladding
Jeremy writes: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”?Sajeev answers: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.[Image: BMW]Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
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3 of 67 comments
  • Redapple Redapple on Jun 08, 2016

    Running Boards = Pant leg Dirtiers

    • Dave M. Dave M. on Jun 09, 2016

      Could not agree more. Immediate dismissal of consideration. Maybe it's the visual reminder of the customized vans of the 70s-80s.

  • Thelastdriver Thelastdriver on Aug 24, 2016

    It helps. So much so that Honda America sells little-known about additional mudlflaps and color-matched plastic door bumpers for most of their vehicles. Really helps on an Element. Of course Dad had to buy and install them himself.

  • Oberkanone Does GM build anything to compete with this? Does GM build any competent hybrids?
  • Dukeisduke So, it'll be invisible, just like all other Gen 6 Camaros?
  • Alterboy21 The gov't has already mandated control of your vehicle. 10 years ago they required cars to have ABS and traction control.I am not sure I agree that automatic breaking is ready for primetime, but taking control of a cars driving behavior is not new ground for the NHTSA. 
  • Parkave231 Collector's Edition hood ornament or GTFO.
  • Dave M. Once again Mustang remains solely on the throne. But obviously the day of the ponycar has long passed....