Monday, December 31, 2007

Someone agrees with me!!!

In a previous post I criticized the new Malibu's rear styling, while mentioning that the automotive press does not seem to share this view. Well, someone in the press has finally recognized this fact. Autoblog characterizes the taillights as "something of an after thought" in this post. Vindication!

That is all.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

At Long Last

In an earlier post, I rejoiced at the opportunity that the new M3 has provided to directly compare the engineering abilities of Audi (with the RS 4) and BMW. Well, our favorite British TV import, Top Gear, has finally put these two firecrackers head to head. As expected, they've included the less comparable but finally deserving Mercedes C63 AMG. Take a gander (it's in 3 parts):



Well, I guess the M3 has come out on top once again, which is disappointing, since I've been waiting for a car as beautiful inside and out as the RS 4 to be as devastatingly quick as the M3. Keep working on it, Audi.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Longest Car Ad...EVER!!!

So I can't sleep at all right now, and I've been reduced to watching VH1, which is one of the only channels that isn't running infomercials at 5 am. I just sat through the longest GM ad I've ever seen. It was actually Bon Jovi's Lost Highway video, but it looks as though it was produced entirely by GM's ad agency. The camera even manages to fit the Saturn logo in the shot any time the video's main character has a close-up. The song is also quite banal, fitting for a car ad.

Normally I would applaud a company for creative product placement, but this "vidvert" has gone a little too far. As AutoBlog has put it in the past, citing the overdone GM placement in one of those Matrix sequels, product placement is fine, as long as it's not so obvious as to detract from the plot.

Check it out and see what I mean.

Designa Oscura

I don't recall a time when an automaker has consistently shot itself in the foot in the area of styling quite as much as Ford has lately. Among the company's strategic errors (see also: the slow intro of crossovers, the complete neglect of the sedan game for several years, and the painful deaths of both the once-most popular compact pickup in America and a once-decent minivan contender), Ford's chronic under-redesigning has been one of the most damaging decisions to its brands, especially the Blue Oval.

Over the past few years, Ford has made dramatic improvements to almost its entire existing portfolio, while making every attempt to hide these improvements from the public. Having worked at one of its ad agencies, I was constantly forced to listen to ebullient engineers raving about the amazing leaps forward they'd made, in areas like ride comfort, engine efficiency and especially NVH (noise, vibration and harshness for the uninitiated), while wondering if anyone at all would actually realize the vehicle had been touched.

It started with the '06 Explorer redo, which is probably the best example of this trend, but continued with the Expedition, Escape, Super Duty and the E-Series van, as well as the transformation of the Five Hundred and Freestyle into the Taurus and Taurus X. The Focus is a bit of a different story. While you can certainly tell that it went under the knife beyond simple fascia work, the results are more along the lines of Michael Jackson than Ashlee Simpson.

It's a damn shame that the hard work of so many great engineers is being almost completely invalidated by sloppy management of the design studio. Other carmakers may be strapped for cash (see: GM and Chrysler) but they know how to make a redesign count.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When Knight Falls

Well, apparently it's official: in the new Knight Rider movie, the part of KITT will be played by a Mustang Shelby GT500KR. Having worked at Ford's ad agency, I know how shrewd they can be when it comes to product placement, and this is quite a coup for the brand. But BOOOOOOOOO!!!

To me, this goes against everything that KITT should be: a sleek, stealthy and futuristic-looking coupe. In fact, when I was growing up, KITT set the standard for me as to what a sports car should look like. It was a classic, wedge-shaped coupe that shared styling cues with the American sports car flagship, the Corvette. Anything that didn't look like that was just...wrong.

So my sense of automotive style has since matured and expanded. But my sense of television right and wrong has remained, and I think this choice is just dumb. Especially when there was a much clearer choice: the Corvette Z06. Sure, there's no Trans Am around currently to carry the torch, but the Z06 is not only a GM product, but it also has the classic wedge shape and, as it happens, a perfect spot for KITT's oscillating strobe. Check out this chop job that illustrates the point beautifully.
Another important aspect, which has been overlooked by many, is the sound. KITT's running shots were always accompanied by that futuristic, mechanical whooshing sound. It was the sound of precision and stealth. The Z06 may not be tuned as quietly, but it's certainly more in line with the original than the all-out rumble that the GT500KR will exhibit. The sound of a Vette engine is precision. The sound of a Mustang engine is testosterone. Sure, Michael Knight and KITT had plenty of both, but they knew when to use them, and the former was the default mode.
I suppose what's done is done, and the decision won't change. I'll still see the movie with enthusiasm. But in the back of my mind I'll always be pining for what could've been.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

When Designers Wing It

Okay, so it seems that a good deal of my blog is dedicated to pointing out unoriginal design. I can't help it if all the pens in the industry came from the same two schools. Well, yet another search for a consistent design language across a company's products has yielded yet another familiar face. Take a look at the new Subaru WRX STI. I've blogged before about the Rex's less-than-original silhouette, but the STI has gone further to illustrate Subaru's new plan for a brand design theme.
In a previous post I pointed out the new Tribeca's resemblance to the Chrysler Town & Country. That is due in no small part to the wing-topped grille theme that Chrysler has been pursuing for some time now. But Subaru is also crossing paths with Saturn. If they were looking for a unique style, this is not it. Sure, they went a bit overboard with the three-nostril concept, but swinging back the other way to completely derivative is not the answer.