Used to be, the enterprising automaker spent some effort on homologation. Today, it’s more like homogenization:
Five decades ago, nearly ever car on the market was designed and built soup-to-nuts by the company with its name on the hood. Ford wasn’t going to go through the trouble of redesigning its seatbelt latches just because people liked the GM one a little better. Nor was Saab going to abandon the turbo four-cylinder engine just because everybody was going to the V6; they had too much invested in the tooling and the design.
In 2016, computer cycles are all but free and the various tiers of suppliers are cheap and as a result there is a constant pressure to hand the design of automotive components over to external parties. We’ve seen this with CTS accelerator pedals and Takata airbags and AmCast wheels. In addition, today’s consumer is a querulous little feeb of a human being who agonizes endlessly about even the slightest deviation from average in any product that he buys. Gone is the man who bought a Bristol or a Studebaker because it was different. Today’s buyer wants exactly what everybody else has, only with a slightly more prestigious badge attached.
I was going to say something about Consumer Reports, advocates of quiet competence, as one of the forces pushing us toward standardization — but it’s not like Fiat Chrysler, for example, goes to a whole lot of trouble to earn their imprimatur.