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Thread: Today's Cars Look too Much Alike?

  1. #1
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    Today's Cars Look too Much Alike?

    This is a column from the senior columnist at the paper I work at (And when I say "senior" I mean the guy has worked here 55+ years and is 84 or so) His most recent column is called "Lost in a forest of look-alike cars" and it's about how he believes modern cars all look too similar and boring.

    An excerpt:
    Itís that too many cars look alike. Itís getting so I cannot tell a Honda from a Lexus unless I take a close look.
    Searching reports, I have never found a full explanation for why so many cars look alike. One claim is that comfort and performance ó not distinctive looks ó are more important to car owners.
    Too bad, because I have a hankering to return to exciting days when one car looked a lot different than the other.
    Full Article

    Now I just want to say, in my opinion, this guy's columns all follow a similar trend. He reminds me of the stereotype of the old man who longs for the days of his youth. His columns tend to follow a trend of "When I was younger things were different but now they've changed and I don't like it"

    That being said however, I think he has a little bit of a point but I wanted your guys' opinions. I think certain car segments look alike but I don't think there is an overall trend. I have no problem finding my car, but then again my car goes against the grain so much. I think it's really just certain cars are very common (Civics, Camrys, Corollas, etc).

    Thoughts?

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    Plenty of people in every age group feel the same way, not just curmudgeonly columnists missing "the old days". The common denominator is enthusiasts view cars as more than appliances, but the marketplace is dominated by similar looking vehicles because of safety, packaging and performance requirements. Changing tastes affect a smaller proportion of model designs each generation. That will likely continue.

    Lots of us drive old cars for reasons other than being able to spot our rides in a parking lot, though.
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    Yes it’s not too much of a problem. I think the main reason for some modern car looking so similar is that they use some of the body panels or chaises, this obviously save money. The problem is that a lot of the car companies are owned by the same people like VW and Fiat and because of that they can use similar panels. Sometime they even come of the same production line. I think this happens more with smaller cars. I am problem completely wronged but that’s what I think any way, I mean it’s not too much of a problem is it??
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    Quote Originally Posted by csl177 View Post
    Plenty of people in every age group feel the same way, not just curmudgeonly columnists missing "the old days". The common denominator is enthusiasts view cars as more than appliances, but the marketplace is dominated by similar looking vehicles because of safety, packaging and performance requirements. Changing tastes affect a smaller proportion of model designs each generation. That will likely continue.

    Lots of us drive old cars for reasons other than being able to spot our rides in a parking lot, though.
    Technically, you can make as many cars as you want equally safe (we are talking about mainly pedestrian safety here) and aerodynamically efficient.
    I don't think technical reasons are really imposing a certain style. People buy similar cars probably because they just follow what's cool now, and if you have cars similar to a cool model, deal. Suzuki Swift anyone?
    So I'd say marketing is still ruling in this field.

    On the other hand, while I agree with the general statement, I always though American cars from the fifties to the eighties were much more looking alike. Then again I'm no expert about those.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeonOfTheDead View Post
    On the other hand, while I agree with the general statement, I always though American cars from the fifties to the eighties were much more looking alike. Then again I'm no expert about those.
    I was thinking exactly the same.
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    American car designs carried from trends set in the 50's when people went car crazy and hitting the highways.

    Aerodynamics didn't seem to be much on the minds here as it was in Europe. I'm referring to the forever standard round headlight unit... and later rectangular one.. We had a few cars which had 'hidden' headlights that allowed for some different looking front end designs that at least looked aero...but hardly any covered headlamps.

    Euro cars used round lamps too but ventured into the covered headlight designs which were more aero and inspired a wider range of front designs. I think the advent and use of this method in itself changed the look of American cars more than about anything else. With design integrated bezels, shapes are all but unlimited.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeonOfTheDead View Post
    Technically, you can make as many cars as you want equally safe (we are talking about mainly pedestrian safety here) and aerodynamically efficient.
    I don't think technical reasons are really imposing a certain style. People buy similar cars probably because they just follow what's cool now, and if you have cars similar to a cool model, deal. Suzuki Swift anyone?
    So I'd say marketing is still ruling in this field.
    We're in agreement... "changing tastes" was a reference to marketability. I think trends are more narrowly applied though, as ROW sales numbers illustrate. The exceptions may be China and India for the near future.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dino Scuderia View Post
    American car designs carried from trends set in the 50's when people went car crazy and hitting the highways.

    Aerodynamics didn't seem to be much on the minds here as it was in Europe. I'm referring to the forever standard round headlight unit... and later rectangular one.. We had a few cars which had 'hidden' headlights that allowed for some different looking front end designs that at least looked aero...but hardly any covered headlamps.

    Euro cars used round lamps too but ventured into the covered headlight designs which were more aero and inspired a wider range of front designs. I think the advent and use of this method in itself changed the look of American cars more than about anything else. With design integrated bezels, shapes are all but unlimited.
    It is hard to think of more than two or three US models from the '60s (Corvette, Toronado?) that could be called aerodynamic. American makes also had to deal with NHSTA rules in the '70s-'80s which made the brick-on-wheels stereotype worse. European standard lights were illegal after 1967... and we got crappier lighting. VW, Jaguar, Porsche and others had to drop aero covers, replaced with sealed-beams in sugar scoops in the name of "safety". Modern materials allow for anything, but design schools pump out stylists that mimic one another.

    Design tastes aside, larger American cars (and for similar reasons Australia) were a result of open roads and cheap gas. Europe and Japan had to deal with ancient infrastructure, post war reconstruction, and crazy fuel costs... among other reasons why so few small car makers really made it in the US. The Japanese learned quickly that simply importing their cars wouldn't work, and built specifically for the USA.
    Most Euro makers missed that class.
    Last edited by csl177; 03-08-2011 at 12:26 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeonOfTheDead View Post
    On the other hand, while I agree with the general statement, I always though American cars from the fifties to the eighties were much more looking alike. Then again I'm no expert about those.
    I thought that too! I mean if I go to a classic car show, I have a much harder time differentiating from De Sotos, Chevys, Caddys, Hudsons, Dodges, Chryslers than I do from modern cars. At from farther away.

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    ^^^ Perhaps more a function of the cars in popular use by a particular generation. Younger people may not recognize distinct car styling differences of the '40-'60s, while older people can't tell what a '80-'90s anything is. Or for that matter, find it in a parking lot.
    '62 356S Notchback Hotrod
    '64 VW Microbus 21 Deluxe
    '67 911S Das Geburtstagsgeschenk
    '68 911T Targa Sporto
    '68 Mercedes 280 SL
    '62 BMW 700 Sport
    '63 BMW 700 Cabriolet
    '72 BMW 3.0CSL
    '72 BMW 3.0CSA
    '70 914/6 GT

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    I don't like this whole "everything was better" talking. Sure, the designs of the past were indeed great, but really, if I weren't an enthusiast, I would have a hard time to tell some cars from the 60's from each other. And while I agree that there are many bland cars out there now, you have to agree, too, that it's getting better now. When I look at the new cars that are being released now, I have to say that I like most of them. Practicality isn't the most important factor for buying cars anymore. People want recognizeable design for most of what they buy, and the manufacturers follow the customers will (mostly).

    Talking straight out: In my eyes, no period of cars was dominantly bad. The only thing that changed was the focus. In the 80's, for example, the focus was rather on technology than on design which resultet in very similar looks. The 50's, on the other hand, were all about design.
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    Quote Originally Posted by csl177 View Post
    ^^^ Perhaps more a function of the cars in popular use by a particular generation. Younger people may not recognize distinct car styling differences of the '40-'60s, while older people can't tell what a '80-'90s anything is. Or for that matter, find it in a parking lot.
    Precisely.
    If you think about it objectively, a mid-'50s Chevy (or any other mainstream American manufacturer) is just as much a pair of bricks with the edges sanded down as a modern Japanese car is a piece of melted fruit. Early-'90s hatchbacks also look a lot alike, though I have no clever analogy.

    The ability to differentiate really only comes from how much a person wants to be able to. A layman might only care which carmaker and their associated car shapes gives the most prestige and thus be able to differentiate between a "premium" German car and all that other non-Teutonic proletariat crap. An old man might only know about cars from his youth because at a certain point in his life other things took over from his teenage love of speed and he hasn't paid attention to the evolution of car design since.

    By the same token, a teenager probably could tell you the difference between the cars they are growing up with because they have been searching for their first car. It's also a lot easier to absorb the information gradually; if you only see a design you haven't seen before once in a while, you can learn its subtleties. Whereas, if you go to a classic-car show and are overloaded by unfamiliar shapes, you cannot digest them all at once and are more likely to say they all look the same. For the longest time, my one car-spotting Achilles heel was '80s Jap iron because I had zero interest in it. However, now that I am looking for cars that achieve economy through lightness, they are beginning to appear on my radar and I am getting better at differentiating them.

    As a random aside: It's hilarious to listen in on my non-gearhead friends' conversations about cars and to hear them state all the batshit theories and false information that they have accrued.
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    I don't know, but I think the bonkers Alfa 75, the teutonic BMW E30 and the swedishly practical Saab 900 are all clearly different. Today if you put a 159, a 3 Series and a 9-3 together, they all look the same except for the detailing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by csl177 View Post
    Design tastes aside, larger American cars (and for similar reasons Australia) were a result of open roads and cheap gas. Europe and Japan had to deal with ancient infrastructure, post war reconstruction, and crazy fuel costs... among other reasons why so few small car makers really made it in the US. The Japanese learned quickly that simply importing their cars wouldn't work, and built specifically for the USA.
    Most Euro makers missed that class.
    That not only defined styling but pretty much the entire car. Cars grew different because of the different conditions, and still are. I find it funny when Alan Mulally recently said that car tastes around the world were converging. I think this is simply not the case. Not matter how they've come a Toyota Camry or a Ford Taurus would work here, in the same was no one would pay $20,000 for a 110bhp Renault Megane in the US.
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    People aren't even paying 17k for Mulally's Fiesta here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferrer View Post
    I don't know, but I think the bonkers Alfa 75, the teutonic BMW E30 and the swedishly practical Saab 900 are all clearly different. Today if you put a 159, a 3 Series and a 9-3 together, they all look the same except for the detailing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ferrer View Post
    That not only defined styling but pretty much the entire car. Cars grew different because of the different conditions, and still are. I find it funny when Alan Mulally recently said that car tastes around the world were converging. I think this is simply not the case. Not matter how they've come a Toyota Camry or a Ford Taurus would work here, in the same was no one would pay $20,000 for a 110bhp Renault Megane in the US.
    Sense.
    For once, he got it.

    As far as a random dude is concerned, all red low cars are Ferraris, all big silver cars are Mercedes, and all cheap car are...depends on where you live.

    As Hellcat said, it mostly depends on how much you care about it. Admittedly recognizing cars not available in your area, or from a period preceding to yours, is not easy and may end up in calling cars from there just "copy&paste crap".
    I still think American cars from the sixties and the likes are all very similar, but then again I know I can spot the right version of many European cars just by a few details.
    I remember when the BMW X5 came out, I knew if one was a 3.0, a 4.4 or a diesel tractor just by the exhaust (two, four and none :P). As soon as we bought the Fiat Stilo, I understood the difference between the three version was:
    - base: rear view mirrors and doors handles not painted
    - mid model: only handles weren't painted
    - loaded: free paint for you

    And the list goes on.
    Guess knowing Zondas by the chassis number is another good example lol.
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