Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Sheep in Lamb's Clothing

Designers have striven for years to make certain vehicles look smaller than they actually are. One of the latest examples is the Chevy Tahoe, which had been getting flack for being a road-hogging behemoth. Even though the current vehicle grew further from the previous generation's none-too-diminutive size, designers took pains to ensure that observers would think its mass had gone in the opposite direction, and by many accounts it seems to have worked. 

Some cars, though, can't afford to be seen as smaller than they are. But as I watched a recent ad for the Kia Optima, it occurred to me that this is indeed what has happened. I wish I could show you the ad, but it starts out with some standard driving and panning footage, probably the same stuff that's used in the "Driving" video here. To me it seemed nothing more than a respectable looking small car. It then goes on to compare the Optima to the Accord and Camry, and I remembered, Oh yeah, the Optima's a mid-size car!

This is a big problem, especially for a brand trying to overcome the "cheap and cheerful" image that Kia contends with. The last generation of Optima was slightly goofy looking, but at least it looked as big as it is (perhaps even bigger). 

It seems that as soon as Hyundai/Kia overcome one obstacle--especially in the field of design--they throw up another for themselves. When will the Korean giant finally wake up to its full potential? I'm still waiting...

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