QOTD: Can We Have Something Truly Unique?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

With the gradual disappearance of regular, affordable coupes now almost complete, and with sedans soon to follow, a time will come when the light truck realm makes up nearly the entirety of our automotive selection.

It’s not looking good. There’s only so many ways to package a crossover or SUV in an interesting manner before practicality and cargo capacity suffers, thus leaving the model off many buyers’ shopping lists. Automakers wouldn’t want that. It seems that, in terms of daring design and packaging, we’ve gone backwards, not forwards.

A small-town car show helped make this clear.

Gassing up on my way to meet a friend last night, I noticed the glint of vintage iron across the road, all congregated in a corner of a grocery store parking lot. Fantastic, I thought — I’ve got a few minutes to kill. Amid the legions of retirees in their C6 and C7 Vettes were numerous rarities you don’t often see, and one stood out among all others: A 1952 Studebaker Champion Starlight. Yes, the one with acres of rear glass.

In my dad’s youth, his father drove a Champion, only his was the staid suicide-door model. This Champion, however, was an altogether new way of packaging a two-door. By eliminating the C-pillar and installing a panoramic, wraparound rear window, the boys in South Bend created a mass-produced family automobile that was unmistakable when viewed on the road or in a parking lot. A design and style all its own. Love it or hate it, the vehicle was undoubtedly a Studebaker.

(Honestly, I’d rather discuss Studebaker than Porsche, which might explain why I never fit in anywhere.)

Anyway, my brain churned as my eyes finished feasting on this pristine Stude. Why can’t we have something like this, I thought. Something daring but accessible, and more-or-less practical. As we move towards a landscape composed solely of crossovers, SUVs, and trucks, it seems we’ve lost much of our bodystyle diversity. Even in the utility vehicle realm, past diversity fades even as models multiply. Where there was once the Isuzu VehiCross and drop-top Amigo, the pint-sized Geo Tracker and Suzuki Samurai (and its Vitara replacement), the less-appealing-but-thanks-for-trying GMC Envoy XUV, the Subaru Baja, Honda Element, Toyota FJ Cruiser, hell, even the Suzuki X-90, there’s now a bottomless ocean of bland four-doors and the Jeep Wrangler.

If small, affordable coupes and sedans have no purpose in today’s world, what do we replace them with in the high-riding vehicle realm? Funky styling (a la Toyota C-HR and outgoing Nissan Juke) only goes so far. Where is the diversity in door count, or even door hinge location? Is it worth holding out hope that automakers ditch the current one-meal recipe book and come up with an actual interesting way of packaging our future grocery getters?

What say you, B&B? And what would you like to see offered in the crossover/SUV space?

[Images: Steph Willems/TTAC]

Steph Willems
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  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Jun 21, 2018

    No we can't have unique things because even when we do dealers actually have no idea how to sell them. https://jalopnik.com/buick-has-no-idea-how-to-actually-sell-the-regal-tourx-1826984906 I would argue the product is unique as far as "American" brands are concerned but dealers have no interest in selling anything that's not a truck or a crossover. FYI my local Buick dealer still has had NO TourX or Regal GS for the current model year and only ONE SportBack in a fairly low trim level.

    • See 1 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jun 22, 2018

      @WallMeerkat Confirm? No, I can't do that. However, GM has made far too many mistakes over the last three decades, one of which was to rely so heavily on Opel to build many of their US-spec models and then turn around and sell Opel to Peugeot. Yes, cost-cutting accountants have destroyed what was once a very popular lineup of cars. And GM is in worse shape now as most of their cars (not trucks) are all imports in one way or another--especially Chevy and Buick. The Regal name, however, is still American. As such, Peugeot will not receive royalties on the Regal name, though the Regal is apparently still being built on an Opel platform. That said, GM is paying Peugeot for the vehicle, not the name.

  • Boxermojo Boxermojo on Jun 22, 2018

    Gearheads moan that there's nothing new or distinct on the market, but when something new and distinct appears on the market, they complain en masse that it's objectively hideous, horribly designed, and not half as good as what THEY would have made...and they don't buy them, so they go away. I'm reminded of this watching people drool over one shiny CGI VW Microbus concept after another, and point out to people that the next generation Microbus, the Honda Element, came and went and hardly anyone bought them despite their well-executed high concept. The market gets the SUVs and dullmobiles that the fear-addled design conservativism of the buying public deserves. God forbid Uncle Harry or the neighbors make fun of you for buying a Juke...maybe we should just go with the Explorer...again.

  • MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
  • Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?
  • Ger65690267 The reason for not keeping the Hemi is two fold, one is the emissions is too high, it would need a complete redesign to make it comply. The other is a need for a strong modern 6 cylinder within Stellantis portfolio of vehicles moving forward.They decided they rather invest in a I6 turbo which is designed to incorporate future electrification systems and not also updating their V8 engine. Unlike both GM & Ford, a brand constantly pushing smaller displacement turbo engines has decided to still keep V8s in their truck line up, because they know it's important to their core customers.GM has invested billions for their next gen small block V8s and Ford has already updated their 5.0L V8. However, Dodge and RAM which is a brand built on the Hemi name and having a V8 has decided to drop it. I think it's clearly a strategic misstep for RAM not to do the same for their trucks, Chargers/Challengers going forward.Stellantis relies heavily on the profits from their NA operations, I think they may not fully understood how important the Hemi was in their 1500 class trucks. On a side note, no one in the media seems to be noting that while the Hurricane S.O. puts out more hp/torque to the outgoing Hemi, that for some reason has lost both towing and payload capability.  
  • Ajla I'm going to whine about it. It should have a V8 available. Preferably a new one but at least offering the old one as a mid-level option. That this brand new engine outperforms something introduced 2003 and last updated in 2009 doesn't impress me. Also, journalists seem to be unaware that it is possible to add forced induction to a V8.
  • Calrson Fan I'll say it again, terrible business model doomed to fail. If your gonna build an EV PU the only market that makes sense to go after is fleets. How many other BEV companies are making money pushing only truck type vehicles?