Car designers: Are they too lazy?
A criticism repeatedly raised on TDUCK and by automotive journalists alike is that car design is simply too monotonous and that in 2016 car designers have gotten lazy and lack any sort of imagination. This critique of car design is so frequently stated that it is quite easy to just accept that the criticism is valid. However, it it is worth bearing in mind that people, especially those on TDUCK (you know who you are!) just love to complain. This article aims to analyse this popular criticism and hopefully generate a debate as to whether it is correct or not worth paying attention to.
The repeat offenders and the marques that receive the most criticism tend to be the luxury marques: Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and occasionally Lexus as well as many other car brands. Is the grass always greener on the other side? Is this lack of imagination from designers a new phenomenon? Let's examine the evidence. Warning: It might be worth having some google image tabs open at the ready to refresh your mind on the car models discussed below.
Let's tackle Audi first. Going back a few decades, would the common street dweller be able to tell the difference between the 1986 Audi 80 B3, 1991 Audi 80 B4, the 1981 Audi 100 C3 and the 1990 Audi C4? The design language is very similar, if not almost identical in places. Moving swiftly along to the mid to late 90s: the 1994 Audi A4 B5, the 1994 Audi A6 C4 and the 1994 Audi A8 D2 all look remarkably similar, more or less just as similar to each other as the 2016 Audi lineup in my opinion. Today's Audi A4, A6 and A8 all look just as similar as they did in previous decades and most likely will do in the decades to come. Some models might look more similar than others but I would not call this a recent design lapse at Ingolstadt.
Jaguar next, but not in as much detail as it simply is not needed. Any Jaguar from 1986 onwards looks very similar to any of its sister models and shares a lot of mechanical pieces. This goes into the Ford era too, the 2001 Jaguar X-Type looks like it is simply a shrunken 1994 XJ X300. There are of course some examples which are contrary to this cut and paste design job (XJS anyone?) but I would argue that this is still present in 2016. Ian Callum may try and stick the F-Type’s rear lights on an F-Pace but anyone that confuses the two vehicles needs an emergency trip to Specsavers. The XE and XF do look almost identical from afar, but up close the difference in scale gives you a clue as to which car is which. Like Audi above, Jaguar's car design similarities are nothing new.
Now onto Mercedes Benz as this will hopefully help to cement my point. I dare you to google the following vehicles and then comment that car designers have an easier job in 2016 than they did back in the 80s: the 1982 Mercedes-Benz W201, 1984 Mercedes-Benz W124 and the 1984 Mercedez-Benz W126. Have a serious look at each of these vehicles, then come to me and try and explain why the current Mercedez-Benz C/E/S Class design debacle is worse. I would go out on a limb and say that Mercedes is the worst offender out of those analysed here.
To conclude, no one is denying that car designers can be lazy. They are very obviously are set on having a clear design language that they then roll out to each and every car in their marque's range. However those acting like this is a new phenomena need to get some perspective. The release of the 2016 W213 E Class resulted in a lot of criticism for Mercedes-Benz, with many people now not being able to tell between the C/E/S Class.
Although I disagree this is a new issue, I do agree that it is an awful habit and understand why the ever-popular criticism is so rife. The industry has gotten too comfortable, whether this is due to safety regulations I'm not sure. Those who are unhappy with all this copy and pasting in 2016 might be happy to learn that Audi’s new Design chief, Marc Lichte, has promised during an interview with Car Magazine that more exciting and differing designs should be expected from Ingolstadt in the not so distant future. Do we believe him?
Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on the Forum: Are car designers having a joke or is this a commonly exaggerated issue in 2016?