Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We Will Buy What We Want To Buy

The power of a simple yet bold design is something that is hard to put in perspective at times. It may come as a surprise but the "Geländewagen " G class AMG is the best selling AMG model in the United States. The slowest, heaviest, worst handling AMG you can buy is the most popular one in the land. AMG is spending millions on its Formula 1 program but its most popular model relies on recirculating ball steering, live axles and aerodynamics of a box. The AMG model makes up over 60% of all Gs sold and sales worldwide are surging this past decade. Equipped with the same twin-turbo V8, the ML63 and even the larger GL63 AMG easily out accelerate the G class and slay it in every performance category. In fact even the Ford SVT Raptor and Ram Power Wagon on knobby tires demolish it on the skidpad, as does a 4 ton dually. This matters little to the G class as sometimes a design catches fire and the image it projects becomes everything. The G class enjoys tremendous popularity among image conscious celebrities many years after the Hummer lost its popularity even though the G is the thirstiest SUV on sale in America today. Brands will spend billions on developing new platforms and designs and then millions more advertising them but sometimes as the G proves one of your hottest products will be the one you don't spend any money on. It's hard to understand but people will buy what they want to buy! And all you can do is give them what they want.

The G Still Looks Great

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Outside Perspective Can Be Awesome

At times you think you know it all and you have considered all the angles to the story only to be rudely awakened when something new appears. The common perception is that the minivan segment is on a permanent decline never to be relevant again. Perhaps a Volkswagen hippie bus revival could make it exciting, but that ain't happening. Enter a little outside perspective from France that shows there is something still left to be done with the minivan shape. The Renault Espace has always had spacey styling and Renault even stuffed an 800 horsepower Formula 1 V10 into it before. Thus it's not unexpected that the newest Espace is the most stylish looking van you will ever find. About 10 inches shorter than American vans and lacking sliding doors the Espace nevertheless has an abundance of style that makes you believe that the van isn't quite dead, yet. Perhaps Nissan can take a gamble on it as you can almost pass it off as a crossover.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Baby Designs That Rule

Shrinkage in general is never a good thing whether from the warehouse, your bank account or from your favorite sweater. It's also true in design as at best a shrunken-down design ends up being cute but rarely fierce or gorgeous. Fortunately there are exceptions as the following three recent "baby" designs prove that a tailored slim fit look can do wonders at times. Not only do all three do an excellent job of adapting the brand design to their smaller proportions but arguably end up with better and fresher designs than their more expensive brandmates.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Future of The Auto Industry

Even among best sales figures in a decade there has been lots of chatter of the future of the auto industry, in particular in regards to its waning interest from young adults and teens. Many causes have been cited for America's disappearing love affair with the automobile from simple to complex. Unfortunately for the auto industry the biggest reason is also one that can't be changed simply because that's how the game works. This past week has seen the release of two different phones that perfectly illustrate the difference between the auto and phone industry and the excitement each generates. The Porsche design Blackberry retails for almost ten times the iPhone 6 yet features roughly the same hardware specifications as the iPhone. And unlike with cars there is only so much that you can do with the candy bar smartphone shape. The beauty and appeal of the smartphone game is that you can post an iPhone 6 release date selfie on Instagram just like your favorite celebrity. You won't get nearly as many likes but for all intents and purposes you can own the best smartphone on the market* just like your favorite millionaire or billionaire. This is certainly something the average person can get excited and feel good about as they certainly aren't driving the same car as their favorite celebrity. It's hard for the auto industry to compete on this level and generate the same buzz. Nevertheless it's not all lost as long as the industry continues to deliver well engineered and designed products, they might not catch as many headlines as in the past but the foundation will be solid. An important followup key is then to be able to explain the technology in meaningful and relatable ways.

* if you think Galaxy or HTC or LG makes the best phone there is no difference they are all priced the same.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Put Up or Shut Up Time for Audi

Audi is the best selling luxury brand outside of the United States but like everyone the brand is not without its faults. Known for creating elegant designs that very rarely have anything really wrong with them the biggest downside for Audi is that many find them cold, clinical and conservative. The flagship A8 is perhaps the biggest offender lacking the flair and in your face panache that many expect in its segment. Over the past few years Audi executives have promised a new Audi design direction throughout numerous interviews but so far there have been more changes of the aforementioned executives than actual change. Given the promises, Audi's upcoming A9 concept carries a heavy burden of expectations and responsibility to give people more of what they want. The four door coupe is an excellent starting point for a dramatic design and Audi should be smart enough to give the A9 plenty of length to work with to develop dramatic proportions. To differentiate the design Audi should give the A9 unique head and tail lights not seen on current Audis. To complement the design it would be great to see Audi throw away all reservations when it comes to the powertrain and turbo its W12 to over 650 horsepower though a hybrid 4.0T is much likelier for the concept. A great interior is a given from Audi and should be the cherry on top if everything else goes well. The promises have been made and it's now time for Audi to deliver, at least in concept form.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Toyota FCV Spy Shots With a View

Death Valley is usually the go to place for automakers to test their new vehicles to their limits in extreme conditions away from most prying eyes. Occasionally though, you can spot new cars testing in slightly more hospitable and picturesque places as a few weeks ago the Toyota FCV was undergoing some testing in some milder climates, perhaps to see if it could handle 75 degrees and a little sea breeze! Or the test driver just wanted to go to the beach. The FCV immediately sticks out as something new and intriguing thanks to its triangle shaped lights, especially the reflector in the bumper. Unfortunately for Toyota, the first impression is not entirely favorable for something meant to carry the fuel cell banner. It is definitely a vehicle that will be noticed and has an alternative look, but the overall vibe is that of a reboot of the first generation Prius and one that is a bit too tall and narrow. Toyota knows best though given its success with the design of the Prius in the past and a unique model makes more sense for a fuel cell push than say a Tuscon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cars & Coffee Symbolic Round Two Highlights

Symbolic hosted another Cars & Coffee (and Krispy Kremes) event this past weekend and as always there were certainly quite a few interesting cars to check out. Along with the usual collection of Audi, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari and various other exotics there were certainly a few standouts in the Carrera GT, Bugatti Veyron Vitesse and the brand new Lamborghini Huracan. Follow the link for more photos and impressions.