Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Full Frontal Nudity

Okay, time for another random pet peeve. I was driving down 8 Mile in my Detroit suburb, and looking around I found about 95% of the cars on the road were of course domestic. And then I noticed a trend that seemed quite counterintuitive. Car designers working in Michigan, a state which does not require front license plates, have a tendency to integrate front plate mounts into the design of their cars. Japanese and German cars, on the other hand, tend to banish this consideration from their styling, preferring to install plate mounts to the front of cars that need them, while keeping the front end clean on others.

This issue hits home with me for a reason. Back when I got my first nice car, a VW Jetta, it was acquired from Pennsylvania, and therefore had no front bracket. When I was finally forced to stop driving around w/out a front plate, it was agonizing watching the guy drill those enormous holes in the bumper. But that was NY, and you gotta do what you gotta do. Then I bought my GTI in NY, which obviously had the bracket already. When I moved to MI, I so wished I had a clean front end, especially knowing that with a VW, that was the original state. Well, you can clearly see my solution in the pic on the right, but a clean front end is always preferable.

So it puzzles me to see beautiful designs besmirched by ugly, unused, plate-sized planes of plastic. There's no excuse for something like this:

It seems to me that Audi has the most elegant solution. They have one front bumper panel for a plate, and one for no plate.

It's pretty clear that this design touch is possible because of Audi's particular design theme. But it's also indicative of a company that places aesthetics high on the totem, even at the detriment of cost. True, Detroit may save a few bucks on front plate brackets, but it's clear that it's not that hard to pull off a design strategy that avoids that ugly blemish on the styling of an otherwise good-looking car... Okay maybe the new Taurus wasn't the best example.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Model Misnomers

This is a relatively random rant, but it's something that has bugged me for a little while. It really bothers me when a car company establishes a naming convention, and then ignores it for egotistical reasons. The latest example of this is the Pontiac G5. Pontiac created the G6 with the plan of introducing the G8 at a later date. Why, then, is the Pontiac version of the Cobalt, which has basically the same size relationship to the G6, as the G6 does to the G8, not called the G4? It's not like this is a bad name for some reason. It sounds fine, perhaps even better than G5. And it's not as if Pontiac is taking the route of BMW, and bumping the number up by one for a coupe, since that would make the G6 coupe the G7. It seems to me that this was purely a case of brand manager ego.

The same thing happened a few years ago, when Audi created the A3. With the A8, A6 and A4 already in the lineup, why was it not the A2? Sure, Audi created a smaller A2 model 3 years later, but that short-lived car could've been called the A1, as they will do in 2009 when they try again.

Okay, I know this stuff is largely irrelevant to most people, but I'm a big fan of order, and when something fits, stick with it. For this reason it also bothers me when BMW calls its base 3.0L model the 328i. Sure, it needs differentiation from the 3.0 turbo at the top end, but that's already done by calling the latter model the 335i.
Pick a system and stick to it!