I am familiar with the Woods car, but you need to consider its performance. Yes, technology is a choice; if you're happy with 1916 performance (35 mph?), you're welcome to use that level of technology. That level of electrification is still used in golf cars and some neighborhood electric vehicles (big lead battery, DC motor, rheostat control). Customers today want and expect many things in a vehicle. Manufacturers must build competitive vehicles that meet customer expectations - in cost, performance, comfort, range, and reliability (perhaps 15 or 20 years and 200,000 miles). Without the modern computer controlled inverter driven AC motor drives and advanced chemistry batteries, you cannot meet those customer expectations. By the way, while the 1965 Mustang was ground breaking in the market, remember that the basic vehicle was really a body and interior change on Falcon chassis architecture. That's not a bad thing and I say that as a Mustang owner. The point is that most things in the auto business actually are more evolutionary than meets the eye. If you ever had the chance to sit in the room with a vehicle chief engineer trying to make these choices, you might be surprised. Integrating any vehicle today is a very complex process because customers and regulators are very demanding, and if the company doesn't make money they will go under.
Your Point is well taken but remember 100 years had to bring some advancement but the auto industry have lobbied Governments with great succsess for anything they wanted and anything they did not want and got away with it remember the 8mph Bumpers that were mandated to save a lot of money in small collisions thy are still there but the carmakers put enough junk over them that in a lot of cases cars are written of because of the high cost of eplacing all the Fripperies
I understand your point, and yes not everything is perfected. There was even a time where I would have enthusiastically agreed with your thoughts. That was before I was in the position of helping to make those choices. Automakers certainly lobby to try to shape regulations, they don't just get what they want. It is easy for someone in government to write a new regulation and say--"do this". It's quite another to make it happen, so it is often necessary to work to shape the many times contradictory regulations; especially in the age when most cars are on global platforms that must be capable of meeting requirements around the world. Most people that design cars strive to do a good job in the midst of all the complexity. To your point about bumpers, think about how you might design a bumper to take no damage at 5 mph-- probably big, strong and rigid. Then think about how to make that same bumper and its support structure progressively crush to protect the passengers in a higher speed crash without compromising the first part. Then add the European requirements that are aimed at protecting pedestrians if they are struck by the car (requirements to limit lower leg injury by the bumper and head injury due to hitting the hood). The bumper design is then not so simple. And, by the way, we want it to have a cool looking design and still meet its cost and mass targets.
So the cross-overs are modeled after SUVs and vice versa; and they all presumably were at least somewhat truck inspired. What a boring lot of lookalike blobs they are. If you gathered them all together and removed and mixed up the nameplates I doubt you could tell one from the other.....and don't get me started on the distracting computer screens imbedded in the dashes. I will stick to old cars that look, drive, and run like cars. My 2 cents anyway.
As long as people keep buying that styless junk Automakers will build and sell them. Hopefully one will build an EV with some style that stands out from the rest of the silver, white and black crossover junk.
Early on vehicle designs were based on what came before. Early cars looked like carriages without the horses. Now outward styling is mostly dictated by marketing and their opinion on what the public wants. Chrysler airflow's styling tried to set itself apart with an advanced aerodynamic design and the car buyers were not having it. Even though there's no need for a grill, Tesla's front end looks unfinished to me, but I'm starting to get used to it and these changes take time.
Kudos to the author. You're certainly a gifted writer! But I do agree. I'm no automotive designer but I would think that the absence of an internal combustion infrastructure coupled with the wider use of sophisticated micro technology would create a lot more physical space to design some really compelling, attractive vehicles. Hopefully in the future we'll start seeing more adventurous designs. Perhaps part of the problem is that traditional conservative corporate philosophy where daring and creativity take a back seat (no pun intended) to short term profits. Who knows!
Wow. Glad this is just an opinion piece as there is a lot to unpack here that is just wrong. The one that stands out the most is the 'hood' element. A large part of having a 'hood' or nose is for aerodynamics. The more efficiently the car can slice through the air, the less battery it consumes. Also, given that there are cooling components, AC components, and the like found under that hood, it is better to have them there than to eat up other space in the vehicle. Cars like Tesla offer additional storage.
The second generation Prius didn't look like the future. The car looked like, and continues to look like a door wedge and hatchback. It looks like any other car out there. It wasn't some leap in design, but more akin the the Bangle Butt on the BMWs.
People want familiarity, convenience, and reliability. Designing them to look like any other car contributes to that aim. Besides, if your design is too avant-garde you're not going to sell the numbers necessary to achieve the scale economies to make this profitable.
And the hybrid Tahoes were garbage. That's why there were sh*t-canned. The Bolt is a terrible looking vehicle as is the BMW i3. People don't want in your face (some do, but those tend to be the same who tout they are vegans to anyone who will listen). People want familiarity and comfort.
Don't know why you feel that way about the hybrid Tahoe. I never had the chance to drive one, but all the car-mag tests pointed out how they were notably better than the non-hybrid versions. Since these were writers at enthusiast mags, and not "green" writers, I do not know why they would have lied about the hybrid Tahoe.
I suspect their demise had more to do with the conservatism (or maybe Luddism) of those in the target market. The same factor was probably why the "Quadrasteer" GM pickups, which tests of the time praised for their ability to control trailer sway (and make the trucks more agile), did not catch on, even after the price had been drastically lowered. "What we have has always worked, and is still good enough!" Well, maybe - but probably not.
That's the long way around to say OEM's are afraid to step off the curb when it comes to style and even function. Its a fact that most people don't like change, scares the car companies who know that nobody can lose more money than them on a failed platform.
Areodynamics still matter but without the need for high volume cooling there is room to take some chances. We will see who is the first one to try... and the first one to succeed.
I have bee on here before and will continue to say EV's are here to stay... and they will take the joy out of driving.
As a member of the auto industry and someone responsible for the development and research behind some of the vehicles discussed here (EV & ICE) I don't typically comment in public forums. However, after reading this article I felt I'd offer some actual insight into the matter as I feel the author doesn't have an understanding of the realities of automotive.
1) The author suggests we can make an EV look like anything we want. No, no we can't. We have to meet numerous guidelines globally for many markets on what is acceptable in terms of safety, pedestrian impact standards, headlight height, etc etc. After that we need to meet aerodynamic requirements for the powertrain at hand and hit certain numbers for drag. We also have to worry about battery cooling, easy access to common maintenance points, etc. Lastly, we need to make sure the car is user friendly for most people and they can locate things where they expect them to be.
2) The assertion that we style cars for old people is ridiculous and smacks of the typical thinking that the only market in the world is the US market. I have to break it to you but the most profitable and largest market for most products is China. Guess what? Most car buyers in China are between 24 and 45 years old. There are no old car buyers in China.
3) EV buyers are younger and more educated than mainstream buyers. The most resistant groups to EV's are those over 65 regardless of how the car looks. Trust us, we do the research and have the data. We've experimented with "cool looking" EV's and the 60+ crowd is the first to say "I'd buy it if you put a gas engine in it."
4) The author doesn't understand the laws and environmental hurdles we as manufacturers have to clear globally. I also don't think there's an understanding of what we have to deal with in terms of emissions credits, CARB, ICE bands in major European cities, etc. We aren't pushing EV's on the public, but rather we have to move in that direction or the government will hit us with millions in fees. We have to hit certain numbers around the world. We also have to feed consumer demand which I'll cover in a moment.
5) With very few exceptions-all vehicles are tested extensively with the public before release. Thousands of people from around the world will attend our clinics and provide feedback on design, styling, pricing, control placement. By the time most vehicles make it to market (I say most because there are some occasional outliers) they have been vetted extensively and tweaked thoroughly. Consumers tell us constantly (the ones who are spending their hard earned money on new cars) that they don't like when EV's don't look like regular cars. We get blasted when we make something that's too "outside the box" and then only 2,500 people a year want to buy it.
6) What you think is great styling or cool in the US can be a major turnoff in Asia and Europe. Period. We try to thread the needle of pleasing everyone globally.
7) The best selling luxury car in the US market in January was a Tesla Model Y (no I'm not with Tesla). Luxury consumers are pushing hard for EV's and the demand is there. Whether you think EV's are a smart move is irrelevant. We aim to fill demand.
In summary, the cars you see on the market today are there for a reason and years are spent precisely trying to nail a certain market share or global buyer group. I suggest the author do some investigative research on these topics moving forward. We don't spend a billion dollars and five years developing a car because a big shot executive says so anymore. The 20th century is behind us and decisions today are data driven and heavily reviewed by dozens of leaders cross-functionally in an organization.
I truly appreciate your comment here --- and while I cannot claim to know how the whole automotive business works, I spent enough years in sales, captive financing, and line administration that I have *some* idea. If you don't mind, I'd like to address your points as well as I can.
1) All of the hurdles you mention were cleared by the Smart and the Mitsubishi i. Furthermore, it beggars belief that the correct answers to all of the above questions happen to be essentially identical for ICE and EV.
2) You mean the same China that liked big Buicks so much they had to fabricate one out of a Holden to keep the showrooms going? Those might not be old people, but that's like saying you're selling Patsy Cline vinyl to hipsters; the nature of the product demand feels "old".
3) I don't understand the point here. EV buyers are younger, so we can't have cool-looking EVs, because old buyers don't want them?
4) Ridiculous. I'm old enough to remember what it looked like when automakers actually fought new regulations. Today's automakers are complicit in regulation. They WANT to be regulated. Because it reduces risk.
5) The quote about "a better horse" applies here. Toyota's risk with the 2nd gen Prius paid off in spades.
6) Totally agree.
7) Yes, and the best selling luxury car was once the Benz W210, for the same reason: there's always a window for you to burn a brand by selling a cheaper version of something you sold before. It's not something on which you should build a strategy. The demand for *Teslas* is high. The demand for *electric luxury cars* is close to nil. Ironically, part of this is because customers can immediately identify a Tesla at a distance.
Finally, you say that "The 20th century is behind us and decisions today are data driven and heavily reviewed by dozens of leaders cross-functionally in an organization." Yes, and this is why new product is so universally bad. Involving "dozens of leaders" in anything gets you two outcomes:
0. Endless bikeshedding; 1. Trash.
The idea of design-by-committee is nothing new. It wasn't invented in the magic 21st Century by any of the third-rate "thought leaders" peddling snake oil around Silicon Valley. It's how we got the Aztek, the GM W-body, the post-Piech Volkswagens, and any number of automotive dim lights.
I understand that your job is probably harder than anyone realizes. Automotive is hard work everywhere from the people who design seat fabric to the poor schmuck who has to sell against Toyota. Just the engineering contortions needed to make sure the average tech's hand can fit somewhere in a vehicle will give even the brightest person a series of fits. That's not an excuse to produce mediocrity.
Again, thank you for your contributions and PLEASE feel encouraged to continue to post out where I've made missteps or am simply plain wrong.
1) I don't think we're on the same page. Those vehicles have a 60 mile range and look like basic econoboxes built to general legal requirements (to the eye of an insider). If you feel they're leaders in EV and pushing the limits of design we'll have to agree to disagree. Also, I'd advise checking the sales figures globally and why they exist (hint: it's not because we think they'll be popular). 2) China doesn't have any of our reference points. What you think is old is new or unknown in their market. If you look at the data of what older people buy or like in the US you'd be surprised. 3) No, my point was that it's counterintuitive for us to try and build EV's aimed at older buyers. Their biggest concern isn't the styling it's the powertrain. The EV revolution will primarily take place with Gen X and Millennials and in 8 years Gen Z will walk into it. Boomers will have sporadic ICE options but the elderly will gravitate to the BEV autonomous options when the kids push them hard and want to pull the keys. 4) I'm sorry, but you are disconnected from the reality we face. You didn't fight the UK, Europe, China, etc etc legally in the "old days" like we do today. We spend millions and have teams of lawyers fighting six days a week in Washington and in California (which is arguably tougher than DC) dealing with an onslaught of requirements. You couldn't imagine the nonsense we deal with today that we didn't ten years ago. Most of it isn't public or in the news. The fact that you can even buy certain types of cars at this time is a testament to the hard work and fight we've put up for the past ten years. 5) Toyota doesn't take risks-it's the most data driven and methodical company in the industry. The car accomplished what is set out to do. No surprises. 6) Glad we found something. 7) You seem so sure. Check back in five years 😉 Tesla meets consumer requirements for range and charging station availability as well as some other things I won't go into. Wait and see what's coming. Tesla sales are far more fragile than you think. Luxury consumers will lead the EV boom and Tesla will see the limitations of its current model. The experienced automakers will be pouncing once Tesla does the hard work-we've all got some amazing stuff in the pipeline that will make Tesla feel like yesterday's news.
We don't design by committee-we do the exact opposite. Design by committee is what delivered the Pontiac Aztek. We (like most OEM's) work closely with consumers every step of the way. Working cross-functionally doesn't mean design by committee. It means that we avoid foolish mistakes like the Aztek by ensuring certain departments don't go rogue (you get the VW diesel mess when that happens) and that we're all exposed to the same information and working in unison. Aztek= pulling in many directions.
Lastly, I will end by saying most journalists are not exposed to the reality of the automotive development space. It's not your fault. We're often playing three dimensional chess with the worlds most complicated consumer product and have to deal with all sorts of small and complicated issues that are too messy or convoluted to explain. We sit down with leadership and PR and decide on "The story" to run with middle management within our own companies and then with journalists. Often what sounds like the "inside story" is just a convenient explanation or coincidence. Besides, sometimes the truth is embarrassing, confusing or frustrating.
I appreciate you taking the time to reply, but this is a reminder why I don't do interviews very often. The simple fact is that automotive enthusiasts and many journalists (much like politics or religion) are too committed to their belief system to objectively try to hear why modern automotive behaves the way it does. However, I thought I'd try and give a glimpse of our inner world to some readers on my day off.
I appreciate your involvement here, and I'm sorry to frustrate you. For the record, you have my complete sympathy and respect. Just two years working on problems within Honda's production infrastructure was enough to turn some of my hair grey. Prior to then, I'd never really considered just how HARD it was to build a car, to say nothing of building one on time and on budget.
Huh...I owned 4 W-platform GM's: 2 Grand Prixes (a GT and a supercharged GTP), a 2009 Lacrosse Super (LS4), and a hand-me-down-then-up 2002 Century. They all were good family cars, if mostly not envelope-pushers. The engines in the GTP and the Super were pretty darn exciting in their times, though. So, other than a persistent problem in the early years of this platform with the front wheel hub/ABS-sensor assembly, they were reliable and quite competent. Not 5-series or E-class competent, but hey - they were a LOT cheaper. ;<)
I think they BECAME good cars, for sure. The early ones were underpowered or unreliable, depending on whether you got a 3.1 or a Twin Dual Cam, and they were leagues behind the foreign competition in all respects.
Now, if you know of a solid 5.3 GTP somewhere, or even a supercharged Regal GS... you have my attention!
EVs will be the end of the automobile, in the "personal transportation" sense. When there isn't enough lithium and the other rare-earth metals to allow every American to own one, we will be forced to consider a public alternative. Of course, I may be mistaken. We may instead find ourselves on the battlefields of Africa, in the effort to secure these apparently plentiful resources, if you accept the premise that it is the current political instability which prevents our access. Not sure if I like that future. Thanks again Jack!
Take a look back at the 2014-2016 Cadillac ELR, based on the Chevrolet Volt, (NOT Bolt), extended range architecture. It's a true coupe, visually beautiful throughout, so practicality as a cargo hauler and multiple people mover is...umm...limited. Unfortunately, it is understated to say that it didn't sell well, meeting its demise prior to the Volt.
I was fortunate enough to obtain a "Certified" 2016 model when it was two model years old. It offers the best of both worlds: The 33 miles of full-electric range is adequate for most daily usage and the on-board range-extending generator eliminates any anxiety beyond finding a gas station somewhere if I choose to drive the backroads beyond the charging station corridors.
It has exciting styling, offers practical everyday electric driving and unlimited range on fossil fuel when needed. To me, that is not a compromise. It is the perfect combination.
Price killed the ELR. Anytime someone says a car died by its own merits, they always omit the excessive price that was levied on the window sticker. I was one of many that also wanted an ELR until it hit the showrooms and jaws hit the floor, and sticker shock sickness set in.
I know you're being sarcastic, but you have it backwards: these gigs paid by the word for years. Now they typically pay by the article, which is why so much of the automotive Internet reads like a 400-word term paper written by a profoundly illiterate twelve-year-old.
I owned a '77 Cutlass, it was a great car...I saw a new Escalade yesterday, in ruby red, lumbering around like the 3 ton too tall box that it is...ridiculous! Personally, I have been looking for a vehicle for a while, that, like Granddad, would be something that I could like, and the fact is I cannot like any of this junk with cameras on all corners, vibratory seats and steering, ADD recognition, etc. Far be it from me to assert what people want, but if inflation is running at 3-5 percent, we need 6-8 on a CD, like back in the '80's! Now that we are going third world, my buddy ordered a new Toyota Tundra, just in time for our microchip crisis; he's been waiting 12 weeks and now the factory is shut down for a month. He should get it just in time for 5 dollar a gallon gas, which is just what the sky is falling proponents are hoping for, to leverage you into the government mandated pod. Well, I'm gonna be 65 soon, giving myself over to the government health care, and I haven't had my shots yet, but I'm gonna drive my old man tan, stinkin' lincoln town car (it's got heated seats!) and V-8 Ford whatever, until I die. Like old Henry Ford said "Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him better take a closer look at the American Indian."
Ok, so I am old and set in my ways when it comes to styling. Paying for a tall station wagon is NEVER going to happen, I don't care if they are in vogue. You want me to buy an electric car? Then make it attractive and give it some character. And if it has more than two doors don't even show it to me because you would be wasting my time and yours. I am convinced that when any company is willing to sell something that looks right and performs well they will leave the other manufacturers scrambling to compete.
Good point on keeping the looks familiar for EV's. The new Mustang is a good example of how not to do it. With the success of Mustangs retro look over the last few years I just think they screwed the pooch on this thing as far as looks goes. To look at it you'd have to say just another EV. To drive it would be even more disappointing. Hey Ford, one or the other!
No matter how much "experts" and "critics" may complain, automotive design is constrained by 2 features. Aerodynamics and user familiarity. Whether it be mpg or mpw (miles per watt), minimizing drag as we push through the air restrains how we shape a car. Even more so with the limitations of a battery as the sole (or primary) source of power. And for the foreseeable future, the car must be driven by a driver. In minimizing accidents, controls must be familiar and consistent - both in their location and their function. Hence, cars, whether today or a century ago, all tend a boring similarity.
Everybody says that, particularly in the industry, and then we get stuff like the ZF automatic shifters that have two buttons and two directions of travel to handle something that used to be a column-shift PRNDL.
This ID.4 has any number of incomprehensible controls. Here's an example: The main screen for the center dash has pictograms of heated seats with three unlit dots beneath them. What do you think happens when you touch one of those seats? THAT'S RIGHT! YOU GO TO A CLIMATE SCREEN WHERE THE SAME PICTOGRAMS ACTUALLY WORK, BUT THEY'RE IN A DIFFERENT SPOT!
more, More I say! Put the money in and allow the designs to flow. Support from the corps (R&D), colleges, fed gov. Build out the charge stations or switch-out-battery-pac. "Style"? who cares. We can have all kinda 'style' as the money flows in. It creates the variety and moves the buyers. I like to look at history to gauge the future. There was a change (in usa) from the '30s to the 40s in 'style'. The bulge-mobiles of the 50s flowed into the straight lines of the early 60s, to the 'fender bumps' of the muscle (mid/late 60s). Remember (if old enuff) how the tarus/sable changed the 'style' world wide? Ina sense we still see what was called the coke bottle style. So let's get parity w/the rest of the world and COMPETE. Get some stuff behind a usa response to others who currently lead on the EV.
EV packaging reminds me of the packaging of Quadraphonic records in the 1970s. When Quad was first rolled out, the labels announced it with gold frames around the covers and the word QUADRAPHONIC in big capital letters. After several years, they discovered they would sell better if they made people think they were just like stereo records that also playing in quad. And so the cover announcement of this new capability became hard to see. When Tesla came out with their first EV they put it in a Lotus body. They wanted to make a statement. Now the goal is to make it impossible to tell an EV from any other car. Nothing to see here. The one exception is - sometimes - still Tesla, who makes some of the ugliest cars ever made. Oh well. Not every Quad LP had a great mix either.
Technology aside with very few exceptions that are usually the high price versions of modern muscle cars the auto industry has become increasingly boring from lack of color to design. Look across any parking lot......boring!..can't tell one make from another. So blessed to have lived and driven cars in the time of fins,color and cars you actually had to drive.
Thank you, Jack. I think EVs are tasteless, and atrocious. I haven't seen one that is appealing from the design standpoint. And I won't drive a car that has big screens in it, nor one that is driverless. I am a literate mature adult. I can drive my own cars, have been doing so for decades, and make my own judgments in traffic. I had a '79 Cutlass Supreme, I drove it all over the Country when I was working, so I'm an enthusiast of the car. I also want to say that I can afford some of the crap known as cars now, and I won't go near them. They are not cars. They are computers for social illiterates. In other news for Hagerties: The 327 has been shipped for the Impala in the Barn. Discussing transmissions with my transmission guy. I want a 4 speed Tremec Automatic if possible, I'm sure we will have to shorten the drive shaft. We'll see. It's all interesting.
My biggest gripe about electric car design is not so much the body, though I think Teslas are more bland than Toyota Camrys, but placing huge tablet looking things in the center of what used to be instrument panels is a no go for me. Put something that looks like instrumentation in front of the driver. Skip all that touch screen BS. I don't want a video game in the car. I want actual knobs to turn and buttons that I can feel without having to look away from the road. I just want to drive the car NOT have it drive me.
True, those "simulated convertible tops" were more "Superfly" or "Dolemite" than any other fashion icon of a previous generation. But let's face it: a Prius is stupid looking, particularly in the era where all of us, by now, expected we would be in flying cars or at least jet-packs.