By on June 21, 2018

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

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]

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76 Comments on “QOTD: Can We Have Something Truly Unique?...”


  • avatar

    If you can be in Michigan in September, come to the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti on September 16th.
    http://ypsiautoheritage.org/events/orphan-car-show-riverside-park/

    What you see will be brands that no longer exist, or are no longer sold in the USA. It is a fascinating show.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    More color choices would be a good start, and custom plastics I can add on to make whatever I buy look like a 1960 Plymouth.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    There are a few examples of successful vehicles in the N.A. market that are almost unique, in style if not in substance. The Kia Soul, and the Mazda Miata are two that spring immediately to mind.

    Others will say this better than me. Increased development and technological costs and complexities, in conjunction with increased data collection and decreased profit margins have required the homogenization of the automotive industry.

    The development and continued manufacture of multiple ‘halo’ or low sales vehicles is prohibitively expensive for too many manufacturers.

    Accountants in senior executive positions will no longer allow ‘mavericks’ like DeLorean to take a chance on introducing a new model/type, without first undergoing extensive market studies. Meaning their competitors will also have time to respond.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Heck, I wouldn’t even say it’s all the increasing technical requirements of the industry (though those don’t help). For example, look at BMW. Niches aplenty. The issue is the buyer. Mainstream buyers just want a box to get them from point A to B. Personal expression through car choice is nowhere near as popular as it used to be.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Sporty nails it for the win…”Mainstream buyers just want a box to get them from point A to B.” The market speaks, and it speaks “CUV/SUV.” Wagons, personal coupes and sedans are diminishing as more or less homogenous blobs on stilts are taking over the nation’s roadways.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Well, threeer, you came close with that one. When I bought my ’02 Saturn Vue, I called it a “station wagon on steroids.” It offered all the benefits of a ’50s vintage station wagon compared to the low-slung sedan-based models from the 60s through now, lacking only the rearward-facing third row (which as a kid I absolutely loved.)

          Unique style is still possible but now it requires all-new thought by buyers and OEMs because if you want to improve economy, you’re going to need something more powerful than the tiny ICE engines being forced to drag these big bodies around.

          • 0 avatar
            threeer

            Until I made the plunge and bought a (gasp!) minivan, I piloted a 2004 Lancer Sportback Ralliart. That little car sat on a lot all alone and unloved amidst a sea of SUVs. Nobody wanted it when I bought it back in 2010. Other than it being saddled with a lackluster 4-speed auto, I loved just about everything else about that car, none the least that I rarely saw myself coming and going in a similar car. I think in my entire seven years of ownership, I may have seen enough other Sportbacks to be counted on two hands (with a few fingers remaining uncounted). But, the adoption of my daughter drastically changed our needs and the fold-flat floor of the Grand Caravan fit better than any SUV we could imagine. She ain’t sexy, but it holds everything I need and does so in comfort. Probably also not “unique” as far as style goes, but maybe once the kid is old enough and moves out, the wife and I will (finally) be able to consider something fun just for us.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The issue is NOT the buyer. Another website has an article explaining why all cars look alike. The main culprit is aerodynamics hamstringing designers. That article includes a question: Aerodynamics or styling? Styling won with 89% of those voting.

        They might all have been auto stylists frustrated with the egg shape – all they can do is fiddle with grilles, taillights, and side creases. Give the stylists a 3-box and they’ll have something to work with. People will buy it over the egg shape.

        Just give buyers a choice: a distinctive car or one that looks like every other car, but gets an extra two blocks on a gallon of gas. They’ll take the styling every time.

        But buyers never get that comparison or that choice. That 1/3 or 1/2 mile per gallon savings explanation is stretched over the life of the car, and applies only at freeway speeds. It sounds like aerodynamics is a real money saver but it’s not.

        Explain that the sameness saves a couple blocks per gallon, or 3-4 miles per tank, and buyers will have a more personal reference, and choose distinctive styling, as they always have in the past. That mean’s it’s not the customer, it’s the automakers squeezing every fraction of one MPG to meet government standards.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Thumbs up, Lorenzo. I believe that’s one reason why the Wrangler and Renegade are doing so well for Jeep. They can’t be mistaken for anything else.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Is that why the 300 outsells the Camry, Altima, Accord, Fusion, etc? Wait…

          • 0 avatar
            jfk-usaf

            “Is that why the 300 outsells the Camry, Altima, Accord, Fusion, etc? Wait”
            It had potential. The build quality , reliability, longevity and resulting reputation of FCA products spoke louder than the unique look could. The interior materials were just hateful at first as well.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        “Personal expression through car choice is nowhere near as popular as it used to be.”

        Awareness of downstream lease return/resale plays a big part of this as well.

        A few years ago I was casually watching Craigslist for a used Tacoma and I saw them come and go — except for one in south Jersey that was there the whole time. It was a little older and the asking price was at a reasonable starting point for negotiations. I’m pretty sure the purple paint was the killer.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Accountants in senior executive positions will no longer allow ‘mavericks’ like DeLorean to take a chance on introducing a new model/type, without first undergoing extensive market studies. Meaning their competitors will also have time to respond.”
      — And that’s been part of the industry’s problem since the late ’70s; accountants have been running the show which is why individuality and quality have been going downhill, at least in the American OEMs. The “malaise era” was named that for a reason and quite bluntly speaking, that policy is part of why cars are so expensive and so “fragile” today. Even a minor fender bender is enough to ‘total’ an otherwise good car because a “frame member” got bent. I believe this is also one reason why pickup trucks have become so popular.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      Arthur captures it perfectly. Studebaker did some pretty wild things after the war such as the clean Loewy coupes (which were arguably the first specialty model to not share sheetmetal the bread and butter sedan offering), first successful compact (Lark), first mass-market brand to widely offer disc brakes and supercharging, and first performance oriented personal luxury car (Avanti), but all of these efforts were done to avoid direct competition with the Big 3 and bankruptcy. Comfortably profitable companies don’t do such crazy things, and with all the consolidation in the auto industry, I’m not sure anyone these days except maybe Tesla is in desperate enough condition to say “screw the beancounters – we are going to go out swinging.”

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        > first successful compact (Lark)

        Not the Nash Rambler?

        But the Lark did beat the Big 3 to market, and was perfectly timed to take advantage of the 1958 recession; Stude sales almost tripled in 1959.

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          The Rambler wasn’t very successful for its first 7 years until 1958, the year before the Lark, and probably didn’t make a profit during that time. Lark sales were big its first year and actually made a decent profit, so that is why I say first successful compact.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    One thing I can’t stand are tailpipes that stick out a foot from the back of the car, like on that Stude.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Maybe you can’t stand ’em, duke, but they served the practical purpose of getting the exhaust BEHIND the car, rather than under it; reducing the risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning (by getting the stink of the exhaust out of the cabin.)

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Heh heh. It will take time, but I have no doubt that similar vehicles will return and probably again based on a BoF platform. The simplicity of the platform can improve durability as well as reduce costs as it has become quite clear that “monocoque” or “unibody” designs are needing more and more structure built into them for strength… which is becoming ever more expensive to build and ever more expensive to repair/replace. Unibody had the advantage of light weight but they have now approached and in some cases exceeded the weight of their BoF forebears.

    Yes, I fully agree that in the name of aerodynamics, cars are all becoming clones of each other. The decline of sedan-based coupes has severely restricted my purchasing options as I, personally, refuse to buy a sedan and have done so since my very first car (which was a sedan purchased FOR me by a parent who believed in practical over personalization.) The first car I ever bought for myself was a coupe, as was the second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth, covering almost 30 years of driving. The fifth was a compact pickup truck. Since then I’ve taken to SUVs and CUVs due to needing utility but far more often than not leaving the back seats folded to maintain a reasonably large load floor. I’m certainly glad that sedans are dying but they are dying in part due to the loss of their coupe versions. Bring them back on newer, taller platforms (without getting ridiculous like most pickup trucks today) and I’m quite sure the market would see a major shift back to more unique and individual designs. Going to electric drivetrains would even help to reduce the requirement for high gas mileage as the electric versions would still exceed the MPGe of the ICE versions by double or more.

    So yes, I fully agree with Steph here and the oncoming electrified technologies would make them practical as well.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Cars become clones of each other because everyone plays follow the leader and copies the styling of the hot product.

      This is nothing new. People love pointing out all the unique products of years gone by but completely ignore all the vehicles in the 60s, or 70s, or 80s, or whenever that all look exactly like each other.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @whynot: In the 60s and 70s it was still easy to tell a Chevy from a Buick from a Pontiac from a Ford or Chrysler product. Today, that difference is far less visible. From any angle EXCEPT the front, can you tell a Toyota from a Lexus? Can you tell a Nissan from an Infiniti? Can you tell a Ford CUV from ANY other brand’s from more than 10 feet away? About the only brand that offers any real individuality is Jeep (and most of those are clones of each other.) For all that I don’t like Ford, I do like the Flex–because it’s different from the rest. But it’s far too expensive for what it is. At least the Renegade is affordable and VERY obvious because it looks so different, even when it is in monochrome grey which blends into the highway background just like all the other grey makes and models on the road.

        Unique is still what helps sell a model. Up to a point, that’s why some people are buying pickup trucks today–they stand out from the generic mass on the highways. Maybe the majority are sheep, willing to be herded by the ‘shepherds’ of OEM focus groups, but by no means is everyone willing to follow the Judas goat. There are enough that demand individuality to keep unique cars on the road and the OEM that recognizes this is the one likely to see the greatest growth in sales.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          Yes, I am easily capable of telling the differences today. Probably the only car I struggle with is Rouge vs Rouge Sport Just because you apparently can’t doesn’t make cars today anymore of a clone of each other than cars of the 1960s. You can tell the 60’s/70s cars apart easily because you grew up with them. Someone who wasn’t around during that era? Different story.

          Your basic 1960s car:

          Rectangular body. 4 round headlights occasionally vertically stacked but usually not. Full width grille. Tailights are usually rectangles of various sizes, occasionally full width, or round (in which case there are usually 4 of them, and rarely vertically stacked).

          The small details are different, but they all largely fall into that category and unless you already know the differences/models it can be difficult to distinguish what belongs to what manufacturer.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @whynot: I would argue that styling differences were maximized during the late 1950’s to early 1970’s.

            And there is only so much you can do with an auto. They all require headlights, tailights, doors and windows.

            Most makes/manufacturers had distinctive grills. Some cars had 2 headlights, some 4 and some had pop-ups.

            Rooflines were different.

            There was chrome and in some instances ‘wood’ side appliques.
            Some had vinyl roofs, some did not.

            And of course there was the period of tail fins with each make using a different design.

            Just about every young, male could identify each make from a distance and from the front, side or rear.

            Not so today. Aerodynamics and safety standards have homogenized design. One family member could not distinguish a Jaguar F-Pace and a Nissan Rogue from the back or side. At one time Jags were unique in appearance.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Thumbs up, Arthur. I agree 100%

          • 0 avatar
            whynot

            @Arthur

            And vehicles today have distinctive grilles, headlights, tailights, doors, windows, and rooflines. They use chrome/cladding in different ways.

            Just because you, one family member, and Vulpine are incapable of distinguishing cars today does not make them any less “unique” from each other than cars were in the 60s. It just means (and I hate to break this to you) that you are getting old, and your priorities in life have moved away from studying every car on sale. I notice you noted that it was every “young male” that could distinguish the cars back then…why the need for the qualifier?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Note, whynot, that I specifically excluded the fascia–essentially the front view–of today’s cars. Yes, those are just about the only way you can identify most cars today, though some like the Dodge Challenger and Charger are more easily recognizable from the rear when they have the optional ‘racetrack’ tail lamps. Most sedans, CUVs and SUVs are almost indistinguishable from each other, otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I am with whynot on this, I can tell an Accord from an Altima at quite a distance. Old cars tend to blend in with the rest when I watch old shows like Rockford Files or Perry Mason. I can tell the Buicks due to ventiports, but unless I get a chance to study the car in more detail, they all blend together. Sure, Perry’s Continental is distinctive, but 10 years later (mid-70s), it looks like an LTD which looks like a Thunderbird which looks like a Newport which looks like an 88. Yes, there are differences. Just like there are differences between a modern Accord and Camry, or a Highlander and Explorer. If I grew up in that time period, I’m sure it’d be easier to spot the differences, but the fact remains that they all sorta looked alike to the casual observer.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            There’s a reason they call the late-70s, early-80s the Malais Era. Try watching Perry Mason from the late 50s (mEtv or fEtv) and see some very distinctive designs.

        • 0 avatar
          DweezilSFV

          Given that the top selling model for 40 years is the Ford F Series and other truck brands choosing one is absolutely the opposite of standing out from the masses.

          Pick up trucks are generic masses, so great is their number.

          If anything looks cookie cutter it’s a pickup truck. Hardly a way to express one’s individuality.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Whynot: You have not provided any logical reasoning behind your comments.

            Anyone, even yourself could tell the difference between major makes and models of cars from the late 1950’s to mid 1970’s.

            For instance the differences between 1957, 1959 and 1962 full size Chevrolets.

            My grandmother who never drove or owned a car, knew immediately from over 50 paces away that the Mark IV Pucci that I arrived in to take her out for her birthday was a prestigious vehicle. From the large chrome grill, to the hood that you could land a helicopter on, it had a presence that less expensive cars did not.

            But even the most common import/small cars of the early 1960s’ could easily be distinguished. The Austin Mini, the Morris Minor, the VW Beetle and the Nash Metropolitan were all readily distinguishable from each other and from larger or more expensive cars.

            Now it takes an enthusiast to distinguish a Nissan Altima from a Mercedes E-Class. Or a Kia Rondo from a Mercedes B-Class.

            Your arguments are defeated by the requirements to meet pedestrian and passenger safety regulations, and the laws of aerodynamics, which now apply to all vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Try telling if a Ford sedan is a Fusion, a Focus or a Fiesta from 50 feet away.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy67

          I can always spot a Subaru: It’s the car invariably in front of me on a narrow two-lane road doing 5MPH below the limit (WRXs excepted).

  • avatar
    kkop

    Designs being unique has nothing to do with the decline of sedans. Sedans design is actually more boring than truck/suv IMO. BVut yes, in general the designs for both types of vehicleshave been on the boring side for a while.

    Reason: that’s what people want: boring vehicles in home appliance colors. Or black.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    There are few examples of “out of the box” styling that seems to sell well immediately. Think of the Pontiac Aztek or that funky Acura hatch from a couple years back.

    As enthusiasts, we may go for the more avant garde designs, but as it has been mentioned here before, the vast majority of people just want a “car” (well, S/CUV) and don’t want anything too far out.

    Even as an enthusiast, if I were buying a S/CUV, I would probably want something pretty conservative. I don’t plan on autocrossing it or anything similar. I would want the most functionality out of it for my money. Now, if I were buying a sport coupe, hit me up with all the goodies…

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Along this vein, I want to see more cars designed by a pen in a hand, instead of being optimized for wind tunnel testing. Think of supercars before 2010; they had a purpose to their design. Today’s supercar design IS purpose. It works when there’s one or two models like the Senna doing it, but when everyone makes the same blob, it gets old fast. Give me a first gen pre-facelift Murcielago any day.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Unfortunately, almost everything in the history of automobiles that is something we look on as unique, different, special and “why can’t they do something like this today?” has the answer built in.

    Pretty much every one of those car manufacturers that went out on a limb in design went out of business shortly afterwards. Studebaker probably lasted the longest (10+ years).

    The unfortunately reality is that, for every auto enthusiast that can appreciate interesting design, there are a thousand sheep who will buy the most boring piece of four wheeled transportation you can make.

    This is exacerbated by the realization that there are damned few auto enthusiasts who will buy new. We’re too smart for that. Meanwhile the sheep will happily be fleeced with initial depreciation.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Syke:
      “Pretty much every one of those car manufacturers that went out on a limb in design went out of business shortly afterwards. Studebaker probably lasted the longest (10+ years).”
      — Absolutely not true. Sure, there were some that suffered but their death in many cases was more due to a certain book than to any claims of low popularity. One of the “most beautiful cars ever built” was built by Chevrolet almost 60 years ago.
      http://cdn.barrett-jackson.com/staging/carlist/items/Fullsize/Cars/130317/130317_Rear_3-4_Web.JPG

      Or maybe you’d like to look at a Ford…
      https://www.cars-on-line.com/photo/63900/59ford63955-1.jpg

      Even Chrysler had some pretty unique designs…
      https://www.cars-on-line.com/photo/63900/59ford63955-1.jpg

      No, it’s not the unique designs that killed many of those brands, it was the cost of having to re-design for safety by companies that were already only barely surviving that killed them.

      Oh, and I have to disagree with your last paragraph too. I buy new because EVERY SINGLE USED CAR I have ever purchased, barring only the 2014 Fiat 500 Pop, became a money pit as soon as I drove it off the lot.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The “brands that went out of business due to safety regs” – and I’m thinking Studebaker, Packard, Hudson, Kaiser, etc – all went belly up by the late ’50s or early ’60s, long before the whole safety-reg thing really started.

        Safety regs didn’t kill those brands – the market did.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Some of those, yes. The book came out in ’65, the last Studebaker in ’66. Kaiser got purchased by American Motors. Packard bought Studebaker and their last cars were badge-engineered Studebakers, according to Wikipedia. Hudson got pulled into AMC as a charter member back in ’54. AMC lasted into the ’70s.

          But your argument still ignores the fact that GM, Ford and Chrysler had very unique cars at the same time as these other brands, yet they survived, one way or another, to today, even if there were some bankruptcies along the way.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I was talking about your argument that safety regs killed those brands. Safety regs didn’t really come into play until later that decade, and Studebaker was a dead company walking for years before it finally went under.

            GM, Ford and Chrysler survived because they were the strongest (and, yes, largest) players.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I said, if you will recall, that safety regs killed the brands that were already on the ropes. This was counter to another statement that claimed, “All cars with unique appearances died.” Even AMC died… long AFTER that book came out and at least part of that was due to the need to add increasingly-regulated hardware into their cars while the cars themselves were reasonably popular. (Maybe you will remember the AMC product placement in “The Man with the Golden Gun.”) AMC, by the way, was the merger between several different companies, including Kaiser, which held the rights to Jeep at the time.

            Oh, and the Jeep is still alive and is still as distinctive in its appearance as it has been all along, so again, not ALL companies with distinctive models failed.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    The problem is, they’ve boiled down go what has the best potential of selling, and vehicles like the VehicCross, X90, etc were often stuck like glue to the lot while 4 door Rodeos and Vitaras actually sold. Nobody wants to take a chance on something like that anymore, not the manufacturers and not the dealers. Its hard enough to sell a practical vehicle with lots of appeal, let alone one with glaring deficiencies in the eyes of most consumers.

    It is a shame, no doubt. I say we buy all the 86s, Civic coupes, etc that we can before the same thing happens to them. You can bet its coming. We just recently lost the Accord coupe, which was the last of its kind and one of my personal favorites.

    Hell, if regular cab pickups weren’t in demand by fleets, we would already see them gone. In fact, they are gone from manufacturers/lineups not popular with commercial sales and the like (trucks actually bought as work trucks, in other words).

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    I would look at an updated Honda Element, with particular attention paid to the old model’s flaws: small windows, thick pillars, odd driving position, so-so mileage, and poor aerodynamics (yes, I know it’s a box…). The TJ Cruiser concept that Toyota showed last year would probably come close.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    MINI, for all their faults, at least stand out from the crowd. Same with Fiat, and uh, I’m thinking here… Ford Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger. Along with exotics. Everything else just kind of blends together, even Sedans.

    Back in the day I could easily tell what a model a car (or even SUV or truck) was from quite a distance away. Now I have to get a bit closer, sometimes to the point where I can see the taillights or the badge.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Funky styling (a la Toyota C-HR and outgoing Nissan Juke) only goes so far.”

    Absolutely correct, and that Stude Steph’s talking about is a great example. Yes, the styling was unique. But other than that, did it offer any compelling reasons to buy it? Based on the fact that Studebaker went out of business over 50 years ago, I’d say the answer is obvious.

    Carmakers can’t get away with just selling style or offbeat features anymore. That game’s been dead for a LONG time now.

    Style needs to be on the menu, but so does substance.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Six doors. Three-row suv/trucks with three rows of full-size doors.

    Also 2-doors; I have a Ramcharger and the usability of a 2-door full size SUV is pretty excellent. They might force a return of the regular cab/short bed pickup (Sport Trucks!).

    Also still waiting for the first OEM to make a 4-door sedan or wagon built on a 1/2-ton truck frame.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Already have that. It’s called the Suburban. Looks exactly like the Silverado from in front and its boxy shape is CLEARLY a wagon with four doors.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        “[Suburban] Looks exactly like the Silverado from in front…”

        Not for about a decade now. Their styling diverged in the mid 00s with the “cat eye” Chevy pickups, and has taken different paths ever since.

        But, for someone who can’t tell a Fusion from a Fiesta at more than 50 feet, its not surprising that you haven’t noticed.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    This Studebaker beauty reminded me of the Chevy SSR. Think of that, the HHR and the last iteration of the T-bird. When they don’t sell, they cease production. I wish I could have justified one of these as a fun car, but that would mean another bay in the garage and another insurance payment in addition to the cash to buy the toy.

    Toys are fun but most in the market for toys are buying vintage (cars). The market for a daily driver that is also a fun trinket is mostly limited to the 20 somethings who feel cool in a Juke or a Soul. Which also leads to the conclusion that if we do see innovative designs going forward they may very well originate from Asian nameplates.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      That’s just it, you can count sooo many of the attempts at being different that went down in flames. Aztec, SSR, the retro Thunderbird, etc. It isn’t retro styling alone that sank those that attempted it, because retro styling seems to work just fine for Mustang, Challenger, Camaro and Charger. Hell, even a vinyl wrap on a modern Silverado that (poorly IMO) imitates the old trucks are praised. Funky, unique and out-of-the-box is what we all say we want, then we go buy beige Camrys and wonder why nobody tries anymore, all the while putting down and making fun of those that do.

  • avatar
    George B

    Steph, One of the reasons US car styling changed so rapidly in 50s and 60s is because cars wore out much faster. Cars routinely last more than 10 years and about 200k miles so conservative styling that doesn’t become outdated as quickly has become more valuable to consumers. We have to remember that the classic cars restored are not representative of the vehicle mix when they were made. Nobody goes to great effort to restore rusted out 4 door sedans. Passing crash tests and aerodynamic requirements have also narrowed styling options so it’s harder to be unique for those customers who want something different.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “so conservative styling that doesn’t become outdated as quickly has become more valuable to consumers.”

      I disagree that today’s vehicle designs are an example of “conservative styling”. *Maybe* compared to the late 50s, but compared to the late 80s through the mid 90s? No way.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        That I agree with. When a car tries to be anything but bold, aggressive and exciting (even when underneath, its anything but), its “bland” and “just a rental”. Fusion, Passat and Impala all come to mind.

  • avatar
    lon888

    You’ll get your wish when petrol hits $5/$6 a gallon. The big-ass SUV market will die very quickly and then finally real coupes and sedans will reappear. My and my little GTI can’t wait..

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    I want to see more of the ‘quad coupe’ style: Think Mazda RX-8; Saturn Ion. But with rwd/V8 power…exactly what the Charger SHOULD have been, leaving the sedan LX’s to the 300 and a mildly restyled Dodge version as the Magnum sedan.

    I’m a HUGE proponent of coupes, but also an enthusiast. Honestly, Id prefer less coupes if it means BETTER ones, like the current pony cars. Who needs poser grade garbage like the fwd Monte Carlo, the Sebring/Stratus/Avenger, Accord, etc? Buyers for ‘secretaries cars’ are better served by V6 versions of the Challenger, Camaro, Mustang and those higher volume versions keep the lights on for the good stuff.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Where is the diversity in door count, or even door hinge location?”

    Dead, because nobody wants to buy it, and basically nobody but a few enthusiasts cares.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I am waiting for Nissan Pulsar Sportbak concept to return. If applied to a current CUV you could have a coupe profile, a pickup profile or a normal SUV profile all in one package.

    The reason most vehicles are cookie cutter these days is likely due to safety and fuel economy goals. Ironically new materials and future construction techniques should have resulted in radical new vehicle designs. Alas this only happens to concept cars that always seem to be a few years away from become reality in your driveway.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Hyundai Veloster. Nobody cares.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I doubt we will ever experience unique designs in vehicles again. Safety, efficiency, and emission standards have made vehicles more expensive and harder to be unique. Also as others have stated most buyers tend to want vehicles that are similar such as crossovers, suvs, and pickups which there is only so much you can do to make a box look different or a blob. I am not too concerned about that as much as I use to be as long as the vehicle is dependable, safe, efficient, and lasts. Most of the pickups and cars like Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers Chargers, and 300s I can easily tell the difference but many of the compact and midsize cars are harder to differentiate until you get much closer to them and many of the compact and midsize crossovers are harder to differentiate. Many of the Hyundai crossovers look very similar to Hondas.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @JeffS: “I doubt we will ever experience unique designs in vehicles again. Safety, efficiency, and emission standards have made vehicles more expensive and harder to be unique.”
      — As long as these vehicles are running with ICEs, I agree. However, safety could see a significant improvement when the emissions standards become invalid due to alternate energy sources (like batteries.) We could see a return to ’40s and ’50s style fascias while the bodies might stretch out a bit to offer even better airflow and load capacity by volume. A BEV is currently capable of 3x to 4x equivalent fuel mileage over a similarly-sized and weight ICEV.

      “Also as others have stated most buyers tend to want vehicles that are similar such as crossovers, suvs, and pickups which there is only so much you can do to make a box look different or a blob.”
      — And going back to the ’50s and ’60s we can see how the boxes were much more identifiable by corporate brand than they are today.

      ” I am not too concerned about that as much as I use to be as long as the vehicle is dependable, safe, efficient, and lasts.”
      — On the other hand, I’m a ‘fox’ who prefers individuality over commonality. Even now, one of the first things I do when I acquire a new vehicle is get some sort of graphics applied to give that vehicle individuality. In a world full of same-ness, anything to help your personal vehicle stand out from the others is an advantage–especially in parking lots where I have often witnessed people trying to unlock what they think is their car while their own car is responding several spaces away.

      The rest of your statement is absolutely true, which is why more variety in color, style and SHAPE is important.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      There was a theory in one of the comment threads that GM have lost interest in the Regal, as it’s no longer their toy to play with, and it’s costing them royalties to Peugeot?

      But I thought that Peugeot were paying royalties to GM to build the Opel-Vauxhall Insignia (Euro badged Regal) and so were looking to replace it ASAP, perhaps even offload the production line to GM?

      Can anyone confirm one way or the other?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        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.

  • avatar
    boxermojo

    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.


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