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Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #96: If you can make an EV look like anything, why make it look like this? | Hagerty Media

"That's for grandfathers who are down on their luck." The year was 1987, or possibly 1988, and the car was a brand-new Hyundai Excel, in the omnipresent dull red of the early dealership arrivals, questionably enhanced with a fake convertible top and equally fake "Continental kit" that looked like it stored a spare wire wheel above the rear bumper but in reality was a single wavy fiberglass piece.
132 REPLIES 132

Also needs to have the 'Opera Windows' and I was thinking maybe the fake exhaust pipes, but that might be too much kitsch?

I like the way this guy writes: reminiscent of the late Brock Yates, but seemingly without that level of narcissism and arrogance.
Intermediate Driver

Spot on Jack. EVs were an opportunity for manufacturers to change how we saw car design. Yet they squibbed it. It would be cool if they were sleepers, but alas. Imagine if the Citroen DS was the first EV? That still looks like the future, and apart from 4 wheels barely remotely like any other car before it. Even with the carry-over motor it sold very well.
It's funny because in cellphone design everyone seems to want the latest and greatest, yet in car design it's fake chrome and faux vents.

as much as we think the EV opens up a door for all kinds of styling options, i suspect the reality is that in order to get the range above 60 miles with a price tag below 100K, what you end up with is a sled of battery that takes up 6 inches of floor height and every square inch of available floor space. The only body style that accommodates this is the SUV - which is probably why all of the modern, non-Tesla offerings are SUVs, even the (ha ha) Mustang version
I personally think that outside of city dwellers, the EV is as big of a myth as recycling plastic - but i guess we'll see what happens

"the MG TD was a considerably newer design than the Beetle"... The MG T series entered production in 1936. The Beetle entered production in 1938. The Beetle was a considerably newer design than the TD.

I totally want to have a nitpicky argument with you here. The Beetle was designed over the course of years as a mass produced vehicle with full government involvement. The MG T-series was put into production before they actually figured out how to build it. I'm willing to bet some GME stock that the engineering drawings for the Beetle are older than the ones for the MG.

The MG T-series was an evolution of the MG Midget. The first of these appeared at the London Trade Show in 1928. It looks very much the same as the TD. Hitler gave the order to develop the "People's car" in 1934, and the first prototype that resembled what became the Beetle started testing in 1937.

I think I figured this out. You're talking about the MGA instead of the TD. That was designed in the fifties and had serious problems at first.

Studebaker was ahead of its time through the '50s and into the '60s. The Avanti still arguably looks as attractive as anything made today. Advanced styling digs the grave of an automaker.
Pit Crew

Marty: Wait a minute, wait a minute, Doc, are you telling me that you built a time machine...out of
a DeLorean?
Doc: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car why not do it with some style!
Intermediate Driver

There seems to be and the age difference between the writer and myself. Born in 1957. There was always a carburetor that could get better fuel mileage. These issues are not driven by car manufacturers. They are driven by government. And government has been a problem in car manufacturing for years.
In my eyes the car manufacturing has come up with some very cool cars in recent years. I happen to own a few of those. For instance 2019 Hellcat Redeye scare the s*** out of you. The public is driving what they want to drive. The recent Jeep Grand Wagoneer if you can afford it. I plan to purchase one in a hybrid. Take a chance with the industry. Don't beat them up. Buy what you can afford and enjoy it.

I am truly grateful to everyone that offered an opinion or a rebuttal on this conversations and grateful that we can have our difference in civilized discourse and I respect everyone who has posted different opinions from mine Love you ALL
Intermediate Driver

The new Lotus Evija is stunning. Not practical or affordable though.
Intermediate Driver

I'm not going to be the first on the block to get an EV and with aesthetics like a Prius or Insight, it'll never happen (yeah, I know they're hybrids). As a mechanical engineer who firmly believes in form follows function, the shape of things to come certainly could and probably should change. But I also think that familiar lines will help many people with the transition. One interesting parallel I just thought of is that I am starting to convert from gas powered lawn & garden tools to electric. They're really not taking on new shapes but then they never were particularly known for graceful sweeping lines.

There is a lot more that can be done with an electric vehicle as far as design since you don't have to have any of the mechanicals all together -- motors can be in wheels or the diff, and are much smaller. Batteries can be scattered about or under the floor. The battery pack is the most difficult thing to package due to bulk, not the motor and trans.

That said, radical designs don't sell. Look at the Tesla pickup. Radical design, but most think it's plain ugly. Not much point in being cutting edge/radical if sales are slow and low...
Intermediate Driver

I won't presume to speak for Jack, but for me the anger is being cheated out of a future where things still had some measure of aesthetic appeal. Syd Mead drawings aren't the best example, (although I would love a world where whitewalls co-exist with walrus-dinosaurs and women with big hair) but the illustrations make the point. You're supposedly saving the planet, we should be able to give up a point of drag cocoefficient in the name of beauty. Packaging efficiency isn't even a concern because there is no CAFE "footprint" to dictate vehicle length. But I know that this isn't going to happen for two reasons...


1) The packaging efficiency of riding high isn't going back in the genie bottle. As soon as I asked a no-interest-in-cars friend how she liked her Durango, she sqealed, "I love being up so high!". So forget about anything resembling sleek. 


2) Part of any good religion is martyrdom and the air of superiority that comes with it. If you look like you're enjoying your transport pod, it's like eating a lobster tail on a Friday during Lent. 




Those of you who try to have it both ways... "I embrace my autonomous electric future! The rest of you are a bunch of old geezers." would do well to remember the words of Winston Churchill:


"Those who feed the crocodiles the most think they'll be eaten last." 


By the same token, I'm not denying the future. I've no need to burn a calorie trying to stop or embrace it. That energy should be conserved to make sure things like Oregon's proposal to ban the sale of diesel never have a chance to gain traction. That and inventing ways to create liquid, atomized fuels without the aid of crude oil or a refinery. Consider that akin to learning how to re-load.

Advanced Driver

This article generated a lot of responses. Here's another.

how dare you

Intermediate Driver

These comments were exhausting to read through. I'm not sure why the author's opinions rile up some people. No matter what the EVs or hybrids look like, I don't plan on owning one for as long as I can hold out. My newest vehicle is a 2006, and we're looking to replace it soon with maybe an 8-10 year old vehicle so it'll be a gas burner. Living in Mississippi, you just don't see many EVs or hybrids, either due to cost or commute times. When gas got very expensive about 10 years or so ago, I parked my old 1 ton truck daily driver and picked up a low mileage 1990 Corolla Wagon with a 5 speed for $1700. Interior was mint, and the body just had some clear fading. That car got 37 mpg with about 75% highway and 25% city. I don't know all about the carbon footprints or environmental impact EVs, hybrids, or diesel/gas vehicles have. But my pocket book says that used internal combustion vehicles win 100% of the time.
Pit Crew

Totally agree.
This is the shopping experience today.
Salesperson: “We have three sizes of boxes; small, medium and large.
After we choose the box that you can afford (based on many factory discounts and the fact yours will be a last year’s model) you have a selection of three body shades; white, black, metallic and one actual color - red. Make your selections and we will see if yours is on the lot so we can apply all the discounts and extend your loan payments for a lesser vehicle than you drove in.”

I love the phrase "Brazil-style American economy", but I'm not sure if it refers to the country or the movie. Works either way, I suppose. Also good reference to Ron O'Neal; I had to look it up.

The bottom line PERIOD on EV styling is captured on the rear of a late model (indistinguishable!)
Prius.... It reads "Nice prius" - nobody
New Driver

This vehicle is intended to be the electrical cuv equivalent of the Golf or the Beetle. It's going to sell by the millions so it needs to be unoffensive and recognizable for what it is.
There is no way in heck VW was going to take any radical chances with it.
Intermediate Driver

What a whiny article, but in a good way. This all about form following function. Regardless of the propulsion system being used every automaker ends up building vehicles that look like a sucked lozenge. That’s because of the wind tunnel design that reduces the drag coefficient. Future designs will continue that trend until the energy to move that vehicle down the road is so cheap that efficiency can be less of a design factor. Why did 50s and 60s designs go all over the design map? Because gas was 20 cents a gallon and it didn’t matter how much you used. Chrome and fins, boxy vans, stacked headlights... that’s just not going to happen if you are trying to eke out every bit of distance from the last charge or gallon that you put in. So get used to every vehicle having the same profile ‘cause it’s here to stay!

As a grandpa-aged former owner, I am surprised that you overlooked (read: ignored for your own narrative?) the BMW i3. It is brilliant, but not enough as a one-car family vehicle; in most part due to BMW's cow-towing to CARB on gas tank limitations.
To wit:
Snub-nosed (reminded me of a Happy Buddha),
Frunk capable of holding a 100' extension cord,
High and clear seating viewpoint, minimalist Start/gear selector,
Great REAR traction layout/balance,
Saturn-styled rear-entry, French doors and plastic body panels,
Requisite EV-styling pin-wheels,
Lighting inside the charge plug-flap door (Porsche nota bene),
and finally, for us seniors: (Eco) CLOTH upholstery!

The EV allows us to return to the golden age of motoring. Since the platform itself is completely separate and independent from the body, GM, ford, etc. could sell the power unit and frame and let the consumer have the body custom built by the shop of their choice.
New Driver

“Are you a 55-year-old man driving one of the various Turbo G55 GTS Quadrifoglio $100,000 station wagons?”

Yes! Only I’m 75 and it’s a Macan GTS. And now you tell me the Zoomer kids are laughing at me, Damn. If only you had written this a few months ago I could have saved tens of thousands and got a Nissan Cube so I’d be “cool”.

Can’t wait for that Macan GT2RS Black Burgerkingring 6:48 Edition. I’ll be the first in line!

SECOND in line, I need to tow my race cars at 120mph!
Advanced Driver

I couldn’t agree more. Has anyone else noticed everything now is some neutral boring color painted on truly forgettable design. My LeMans Blue poly 69 Camaro is the automotive litmus test, people either love it or hate it but one thing is for sure, it will never be mistaken for a washing machine!
Pit Crew

I can't really tell what you are trying to say here. Five years ago, car makers seemed to think that the buyer of an electric car or a hydrogen car wants to say "I'm not the least but interested in what the car looks like. I just want a small carbon footprint". Witness the horribly ugly BMW i3 or the Honda Clarity. Both sold poorly and they deserved to sell poorly. More buyers want a car that runs on electricity than want an "ELECTRIC CAR!!!!!!". The Tesla Model 3 is a great example. It looks like a car. Yes. it doesn't need to have a hood, but the front trunk combined with the rear trunk allows a lots of storage without playing the SUV game.
Intermediate Driver

Cameron Neveu. 3 superb images. Thanks. I don't think I will ever get enough of your stuff.
Mr. Baruth. I wish my greatest generation brain could keep up with your prose. FYI I think you're right.
Advanced Driver

Jack--you nailed it! The EV Crowd doesn't want to make their vehicles appear TOO outlandish--that could kill sales. Elon has debuted his new "pick-up" (with Jay Leno) in hopes of luring buyers, I'm sure.
And you absolutely are correct about the big auto manufacturers having "bet the house" on EVs. Although the prices will drop with time, when subsidies run out and incentives are low--who's going to pay the price for a vehicle which controls them and their lives? If a person pays attention to Agenda 21 (2030), he knows that the purpose of all of this is to make it impossible for the average person to own a vehicle--and to push the masses to use "public transportation". Keep up the great posts, Jack!

Good stuff Jack!
The big automakers - by big I mean volume - are cheap and lazy and afraid to do anything that makes them different. And the people that buy their weak offerings never let them know if they are doing a good job or if they want more style, etc. I disagree with the take on people copying tesla - yes, their design is super boring and weak, but nobody was buying a $120k tesla 7 years ago b/c of what it looked like or to save the planet - people bought the car because it says "I just dropped $120k on a toaster so look at me!" The gift elon stumbled upon is that people with or without taste in automobile design still want the car that defines what tax bracket they are or hope to be in, and until the rest of the EVs don't sell, nobody is going to change the design trend we see now. At least on EVs that are real and not vapor ware