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.


michelle said...

ooooh you know i agree with you on this one!

Anonymous said...

Completely out of line; I happen to believe that American designs are progressing, and that many future products (including the one you so harshly put down) do have a purpose.

The Auto Snob said...

Okay, Mr. Anonymous, I guess I should respond to your comment... I'm not really sure what you thought was "completely out of line" in my post. Even the final comment about the new Taurus doesn't really denegrate it that much. After all, while I was working at Ford's ad agency, I saw a slightly different, more interesting version of the car. They toned it down, and I don't know why, but it's pretty boring now. Anyway, I do agree that they're making lots of progress, and I said nothing to the contrary. I simply pointed out a small aspect of their designs that irks me.

The Auto Snob said...

P.S. Thank you for the comment, though. I do appreciate your readership.

Kathy said...

So I'm wondering now though ... I was looking at the front plate harness on my 07 GTI ... and I'm confused. It looks like it's glued on or something because I cannot find any bolts.
(About half of it covers some of the honeycomb, so that part cannot be attached to anything)

Am I a moron, or do you know anything about that to be true?

The Auto Snob said...

I don't really know about the new GTIs. I would guess that the plate mount snaps onto the grille.

Kathy said...

Wow ... okay well FYI ... no clips on new GTI's ... there are expanders that fit through 4 giant drilled holes. To get to them you have to use something to poke holes in the plastic facing over them to release the pins. In any case ... 4 GIANT holes in the bumper plus damage from the screws they used to hold on the plate holder (with the dealer insignia) grrrr.

So ... Where did you get your euro-esque GTI plate?

The Auto Snob said...

I feel your pain, Kathy. I got my plate from They did a great job making that custom GTI plate, and I didn't have to install a new bracket (with more holes) like you would for the full-size Euro plate. I was actually thinking about getting a new one from them that says VR6 to replace my GTI one, since I've kinda regretted not doing that from the get-go. If you have any interest in buying my GTI one, send me an email (you can do that through the blog). You can pay half what I did, and I'll clean it up and send it out. Let me know.