Is it just me, or has all the fun been sucked out of the auto industry? In previous decades, the unique design of a car was something to be celebrated. Cars were an extension of one’s personality and were intended to make a statement.
A bit before my time, not just fish could have fins … cars did too. And chances were taken. Some models succeeded and some didn’t (I’m looking at you, plastic and puffy AMC Pacer). Overall, back then, there seemed to be more of an atmosphere of adventure and risk-taking.
Quirky and odd were qualities to be celebrated. VW beetles and bugs came with a tiny flower vase built into the dash, perhaps as a reminder to celebrate life. VW buses and campers had a look that dared you to have fun, and Porsches just looked like they were built for speed.
These days, at least in the U.S. market, SUVs still rule, and they are being pumped out in standard white, black and gray colors — many makes and models are not distinguishable from their competitors — very vanilla. These living rooms on wheels are the bread and butter of U.S. automakers.
I’m hoping with EV innovation, automakers new and old will take more chances. Love it or hate it, the Tesla Cybertruck design is not boring. Elon Musk certainly doesn’t get everything right, but his idea that the production car should be even better than the concept is spot-on. All too often, we get excited at a vehicle concept only to have our dreams dashed as the production car is revealed.
And don’t get me started on the Honda “e” and how that sexy little sled is not available in the U.S. market because Honda feels they won’t sell here. Well, BMW took a chance with the Mini and that sold really well and doesn’t look to be half as fun. And talk about odd, the Honda “e” has an aquarium mode for its humongous all-screen dash. Odd? Yes. Practical? No. Fun? Absolutely.
This lack of uniqueness might be the reason that classic car conversion businesses like Michael Bream’s EV West are doing so well. You get your unique classic design and your clean last-forever power source too. A great option, but not cheap. Have a listen to my podcast conversation with Michael for more on that topic.
There is hope. New EV makers have an opportunity to leave convention in the dust. Fisker will eventually take the wraps off its Project Pear. Legendary designer and Fisker CEO Henrik Fisker said he will be taking chances with the vehicle and use it as a platform for new ideas. Some may love it and some may hate it, but at least it probably won’t be the same old same old!
I hope with the ushering in of the new EV wave, we can celebrate the fun in taking trips and embracing adventures and our vehicles will be given more personality. And while we’re at it, I’ll take a small dose of odd too.
By Stuart Ungar
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