Overwrought iron

Contemporary cars, if you ask me, are seriously overstyled: weird grille shapes, mandatory brightwork on the decklid, wheels borrowed from the Jupiter branch of Cuisinart. Of course, there’s a logical explanation for that:

[T]he [Toyota] Avalon, [Lincoln] MKZ and [Lexus] ES all have basically the same shape in profile — as do 90% of the cars being manufactured these days. I’m going to start calling it “Generic Car Shape.” The use of Generic Car Shape is why there is a model of Jaguar that is hard to tell apart from a Hyundai Sonata. It is also why it is hard to distinguish a Fusion from a Focus from a Fiesta without a tape measure, because they have become just three different sizes of Generic Car Shape With Generic Ford Styling Details.

I suppose there may be some algorithm that has been refined and refined to the point that it spits out Generic Car Shape as the solution to any car design question, but is it really the only answer? Even as recently as the 90’s, when aerodynamics and crash protection were part of the design process, cars were still allowed to be a variety of shapes. Is it literally illegal to build a sedan in a different shape (as in it won’t pass some new standard), or can we have some freedom of choice here?

I’ll hazard a guess that the algorithm is called upon to maximize aerodynamics and minimize length. (It’s no trick to make something with low wind resistance if it’s long and tapered; however, you start making cars twenty feet long, you’re going to use a whole lot more metal. Or carbon fiber, which costs even more.) So basically it’s a standard, you could even call it “generic,” wedge shape with a rear end that sticks up in your face like the backside of a cat, because Joe and Susan Sixpack want room for five and want to sit up high and oh, if you could get them 40 mpg on the highway, that would be great.

Perhaps this is a plot by Our Betters to make us (but not them) ride the bus.





4 comments

  1. Roger Green »

    4 March 2013 · 12:24 pm

    we have an Avalon, of that generic silver-gray variety. i hate it because I can never recognize it, except by looking at our license plate.

  2. Roy »

    4 March 2013 · 4:15 pm

    That “Generic Car Shape” is what you get when you use the wind tunnel as your primary design tool.

  3. CGHill »

    4 March 2013 · 5:19 pm

    Oh, yeah. Anything to drop the coefficient of drag enough to save 1 mpg for advertising purposes.

  4. Linkluster The Crime of Murder | Hit Coffee »

    18 April 2013 · 6:12 pm

    […] miss the designs of some of the older cars, but the utilitarian in me appreciates that the convergence of automobile design is largely a product of all the makers having found the best way to make a car and going with […]

RSS feed for comments on this post