Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Bye, Bye, Miss American.......CAR!

It's really getting depressing to see the state of the American auto industry anymore.  The flair and flash of designs has been diminished to something resembling a jelly bean.  Oddly enough, I'm writing this on the 120th birthday of Raymond Loewy, the most prolific industrial designer in modern history.  Some of the bold and imaginative designs he did were the 1951 and 1953 Studebakers, the Studebaker Hawks and the Avanti, plus many other products and logos.  Back then, it was the style of a car that mattered.  Designers sketched cars to catch your eye, to thrill you enough to buy one.  These days, our jelly bean vehicles are marketed on gadgets, gimmicks, and prestige.  Very little goes into radical styling any more.
The auto industry has weathered some tough times over the years, and many of the multitude of makes and models no longer exist.  Forward looking companies such as Studebaker and Packard are but memories.  Gone also, is Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Pontiac, and others.  Many died from deep financial wounds, some from corporate downsizing, and a few from excessive government regulations.  I highly doubt anyone on congress is bright enough to design cars, much less run the country.  Their thinking is molded by lobbyists and their money.  Yes, some of the safety laws are fine, but why make them a law?  Why not have the manufacturers add them out of the desire to build safer autos?  Some of the other laws are obvious nods to the big money benefactors.  Remember the 5 MPH bumpers in the early 1970's?  What ugly appendages on what were still some good looking cars!  Worse yet, the anti-theft steering column lock which is my pet peeve.  They can be defeated by any two-bit criminal in an instant, yet car owners must suffer the indignity of jamming the ignition key in the steering column, rather in the dash, where God intended it!
Mileage laws and targets are another factor.  A manufacturer must meet an average fuel mileage figure for all the models it produces.  That's why all our vehicles today are shaped like jelly beans.  This is done to make them more aerodynamic, and cut fuel wasting drag.  Funny how a 1959 Studebaker Lark got 29mpg with a nearly flat front end!

Instead, manufacturers copy each others tricks and trade secrets.  If a car is a best seller, you can bet all the other manufacturers will produce an awfully similar one soon.  Why not drop the rules and oversight, and just build good looking vehicles again?  We've done it before, we can do it even better now.  Let's replace the "Our cars look just like their cars" motto with "We build excitement!" again?

If you build it, they will come........ 

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