Category: Design

By on April 9, 2019

2019 Ford Taurus SE Oxford White, Image: FordMy first installment centered around the neglected, beancounted “heart and soul of an American hero,” with a sense of pride in bespoke platforms and powertrains. But the re-killing of the Ford Taurus lacks nationalistic sorrow: the hometown hero was a name looking for a globally-engineered sedan, in a declining market, foolishly butted up against another Ford sedan with cooler stuff (a la hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and a SHO-worthy Sport with 325 turbocharged horses). 

Ouch. RIP Ford Taurus. 

Read More >

By on September 4, 2018

Kia is readying the unveiling of its Proceed for European buyers later this month, taking great strides to ensure it matches the concept version. While the Ceed five-door already exists, the Proceed is a full-blown wagon. However, it’ll probably spend the majority of its time referred to as an “estate car” or “shooting brake,” since it’s not supposed to make it out of Europe. That’s slightly tragic, considering the model seems bent on showcasing Kia’s new emphasis on extra-handsome designs.

Kia revealed the Proceed Concept last year at the Frankfurt Motor Show to much praise from the media. The brand claimed it would foreshadow the future of the Ceed lineup’s styling, which bodes well, as the car looks like a Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo and Nissan GT-R put up their bastard offspring for adoption in South Korea.  Read More >

By on April 24, 2018

Thanks to an interested and better-financed populace, luxury purchases have been on the rise in China for the past decade. Chinese consumers currently drop around $7.6 billion per year on premium goods, accounting for almost a third of the global luxury market. This has resulted in a massive influx of high-end items and brands that want to capture the public’s attention and, more importantly, cash.

This includes automotive brands — all of which are desperate to expand into the Chinese market. But finding the correct approach is tricky. Plenty of fashionable brands attempted to incorporate authentic Chinese elements into their designs, but failed to do so in an elegant or convincing way. There’s a bit of a balancing act required. Market research shows younger consumers like clean designs and a little bit of bling, but don’t want these established brands catering too much to Chinese tastes. Older consumers, however, are willing to enjoy a little bit more ostentatiousness and adherence to tradition.

That’s one reason why you see so many new cars showing up at auto shows painted red. In China, red represents good fortune and crops up on significant items on important dates all the time. Wedding dresses are traditionally red, as are envelopes containing monetary gifts to commemorate the birth of a child or the new year.

However, we have to wonder if some brands aren’t going a little overboard. Mercedes-Maybach, which just released a hideous concept SUV intended to whet Chinese appetites, has followed up that eyebrow-raising effort with “the pinnacle of luxury living.” Read More >

By on December 17, 2017

A Class Concept Mercedes, Image: Daimler AG

When you desperately want a status-defining automobile from Mercedes-Benz, but haven’t budgeted for it, you have a few of options. You could purchase either the GLA or CLA250 for around $33,000 — or take the nontraditional route, save yourself a bundle, and buy a Metris van. But, since the CLA is technically a “four-door coupe,” there’s nothing out there for sedan shoppers who can’t afford the pricier C-Class.

Benz is planning on changing that by bringing the updated A-Class to the United States next fall, thereby making it the brand’s new entry-level model for the region.  Read More >

By on October 30, 2017

Mazda Kai Concept

While it’s impossible to imagine you haven’t already noticed, Japanese automakers are entering a new era of style. Disparate from each other and unabashedly novel, vehicles are beginning to crop up at trade shows and on the road that we couldn’t have seen coming a few years earlier.

Right now, the most obvious examples are from Toyota and Honda. But even Mazda, Subaru, and Mitsubishi have recently made a concerted effort to step up their styling game. The reason, according to manufacturers, is new competition.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Japan could offer a fairly dull automobile and bank on its superior quality and value to get prospective buyers to take it home. Things are different now. The quality gap is beginning to close and other manufacturers are getting better at providing most of the things that used to denote something as distinctively JapaneseRead More >

By on October 10, 2017

Dodge Dart Audi A8 rear end - Images: FCA & AudiMy Dodge Dart awareness is not what it should be. I’m not fully up to speed on the Dodge Darts of yore. Despite my parents’ ownership of a Dart, the 1960-1976 period was not an era in which I was a sentient being.

As for the newer Alfa Romeo Giulietta-based Darts, I’m not fully on board with America’s rejection of the car. By the end of its second full year, nearly 200,000 Dodge Darts had been sold. Sales increased yet again in 2015. But without factory support, real demand was rather limited. Only 43,402 Darts were sold in the United States in 2016, the year Dart production came to a premature end.

Man, I loved that car. Oh, I don’t mean the way it drove, and certainly not the way it shifted. I’m not talking about interior packaging or its engine lineup or its interior quality. Whatever. Pfft. Who cares. I just genuinely liked the way it looked: the proudly Dodge front end, those completely wheel-filled arches, and especially that distinctive rear end.

I’m therefore pleased to see Audi resurrecting that look for the fourth-generation 2018 Audi A8, the brand’s flagship sedan. Read More >

By on October 9, 2017

E-Class, 5 Series, A6, Panamera - Images: BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche“I think the British do a pretty good job — they seem to produce cars that look British,” Ford Motor Company’s retired design chief J Mays says.

Given that Minis essentially look the same as they’ve always looked, Mays makes a good case.

But Mays tells Automotive News he’s “a big stickler for cultural relevance.” And while the man whose influence can still be seen across much of the Ford lineup — he retired three years ago — credits the Brits for bringing culture to car design, he gives no such credit to the Germans. Read More >

By on August 22, 2017

ND Mazda MX-5 Miata Design Exercises - Image: MazdaThe end result is tasty. Maybe the narrow headlamps are sliced too thinly; the hood cut line that intersects with the housing too obvious. Perhaps the rear end could use a bit more breadth. The wheels still appear a bit small from some angles.

But the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata — known in Mazda circles as the ND, succeeding the NA, NB, and NC — is generally regarded as an eye-catching, modern, successful evolution of the venerable Mazda sports car.

How did Mazda arrive at the end result? What led Mazda to settle on the final production version? Which styling direction was rejected?

In a fit of transparency, Mazda’s PR department has released the entire background of the process, including 140 photos detailing the evolution of what would become the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5. Read More >

By on August 1, 2017

2011-2015-2018 Hyundai Sonatas - Images: HyundaiAfter the forgotten third-generation car, the odd and bulbous fourth-generation car, and the dull fifth-generation car, the sixth Hyundai Sonata was unveiled at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was surprising, even shocking, that Hyundai so dramatically transformed its staid midsize car into a radical “fluidic sculpture” sedan.

In the United States, after averaging 132,000 sales over the previous half-decade, the Hyundai Sonata exploded. By 2012, Hyundai sold more than 230,000 copies, and the Sonata averaged 215,000 U.S. sales between 2010 and 2014, a 63-percent increase compared with the previous half-decade average.

The momentum was not sustained. The seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata debuted in the United States at 2014’s New York International Auto Show. Where did the fun go? Where was the drama, the cat-like headlamps, the desire to stand out from the pack?

“We went from a very striking design, to a very beautiful car, but it just didn’t turn heads like the car before it did,” Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of product planning, Mike O’Brien, tells Automotive News. Read More >

By on July 27, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Accord will be assembled in Marysville, Ohio. The overwhelming majority of its sales will occur in the United States of America. Its dimensions, inside and out, suit the U.S. market. In 2016, the Accord ranked second on Cars.com’s American-Made Index.

Open its trunk and a family of bald eagles fly out, having successfully incubated apple pies, having binge-watched every season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. There’s a subtle Statue of Liberty easter egg on the windshield, Hollywood signs engraved in its cupholders, and a 3D hologram of Mount Rushmore featuring a fifth character — Soichiro Honda — that emerges from the glovebox if you shift the manual transmission into sixth, say VTEC three times, and spit over your left shoulder.

The Accord, according to lead exterior designer Tetsuji Morikawa, “is an American car.”

To make sure of that, however, Morikawa said the design team, “wanted to feel like Americans.” And they wanted to finish their design of the 10th-generation Accord in the United States, not Japan. Read More >

By on July 25, 2017

lamps20170724

We came up with a little design element identification game today, involving the four near-identical taillamps you see above. This collage is compiled from four different vehicles. Can you tell which is which?

Get your image search fingers ready.

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By on July 21, 2017

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Nissan Navara - Images: Mercedes-Benz & NissanAustralia’s pickup truck markets wants to know: is the Mercedes-Benz X-Class more than just a badge-engineered Nissan Navara?

“This is hardly a double badge,” Mercedes-Benz Vans’ global boss Volker Mornhinweg told Motoring.

But there’s a tendency to see matters another way. The production X-Class, not yet bound for North America’s nonexistent premium midsize pickup truck market, isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the X-Class Concept shown in late 2016.

Moreover, that X-Class gear lever looks downright familiar to Navara drivers. Read More >

By on July 14, 2017

2017 Jaguar XF and XE - Images: JaguarFortunately, premium automakers have not adopted a One Size Fits All approach. We have choices. Plenty of choices.

Increasingly, however, we are seeing a One Look Fits All Sizes methodology, limiting our ability to distinguish between a 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series at BMW; between A4s, A6s, and A8s at Audi; or between C, E, and S-Class sedans at Mercedes-Benz.

With the second-generation XF appearing all but identical to the first XF, and the subsequent launch of the entry-level XE closely resembling an abbreviated XF, Jaguar’s guilty of the same crime against differentiation.

Fortunately, famed Jaguar design director Ian Callum says future Jaguar designs won’t be revealed merely as S, M, and L versions of the same t-shirt. Read More >

By on June 1, 2017

2017 Mini Countryman, Image: MiniIn Oliver Heilmer, BMW Group’s Mini brand will finally have a design chief after being rudderless for much of the last year.

Anders Warming, Heilmer’s predecessor, resigned the post last summer. The 42-year-old Heilmer, who makes his way up the corporate ladder from BMW Designworks in California, won’t actually undertake his new role until September.

“With his design expertise and experience, Oliver Heilmer combines continuity with the freshness and vision Mini stands for,” Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design, said in BMW’s official statement. In other words, Heilmer is both an insider, as part of BMW Group Design for 17 years, but also an outsider, as the BMW Designworks boss who previously held a post in interior design at the BMW brand.

Regardless, Heilmer has his work cut out for him. In the hugely important U.S. market, Mini sales in 2016 fell to a six-year low, and sales are declining further in 2017. Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

2017 Land Rover Discovery

Ahh, style. The word that means different things to different people. The khaki-clad middle manager and the 20-something hipster from Seattle both have a sense of it, even if wildly divergent. And this equally applies to cars.

For example, though many of the B&B complain about how all cars look the same now, I don’t think that’s true.

Your assignment today is to think about present-day exterior styling as applied to cars, and come up with a suggestion that’s suitably timeless.

Read More >

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