Where have all the car designers gone?

Now that I’m back in the Southern California, I find myself daydreaming about buying a car.   I hope to buy a new car in the next 18 months.  Recognizing that cars are not “investments”, I am in the market for a non-luxury vehicle.  The challenge is to find one with some pizzaz that fits this budget.  (Sure, cars whose payments resemble mortgage payments have plenty of pizzaz.)

Let me make one thing clear: I’ve never bought my own car.  When I lived in Los Angeles, I drove hand-me downs; living in New York City and Ghana didn’t require having my own car.

Thus, this purchase is more than a decade in the making.  Unfortunately, after perusing the major auto companies’ websites, I have to ask, Where have all the car designers gone? Has the economy been so bad that the car companies couldn’t have invested in design?

Toyota’s line up is typical.  The entry level vehicle is some sort of oval.  For $5,000 more, you can get an ellipse; for another $10,000, you can get an ellipse with a longer midsection.  Seriously?

Toyota Yaris, starting at $15K

Toyota Yaris, starting at $15K

Toyota Corolla, starting at $17K.  For $2K more, you get a trunk

Toyota Corolla, starting at $17K. For $2K more, you get a trunk

Toyota Camry, starting at $23K

Toyota Camry, starting at $23K

Toyota Avalon, starting at $32K

Toyota Avalon, starting at $32K

The Corolla, Camry, and Avalon all look very similar.  Sure, they are made by the same company but I think Toyota could try to add some flare to each model to make them more unique.

What’s worse is many models have yet to be updated.  Can you tell which is the newer model?

Nissan Z Coupe:

Model A

Model A

Model B

Model B

Toyota 4Runner

Toyota 4Runner A

Model A

Model B

Model B

Model C

Model C

Honda Civic

Honda Civic A

Honda Civic A

Honda Civic B

Honda Civic B

Honda Civic C

Honda Civic C

Furthermore, several cars within the same class look very similar.

Which is a Nissan, Honda, Ford, Toyota?

Car A

Car A

Car B

Car B

Car C

Car C

Car D

Car D

For crossovers:

Crossover A

Crossover A

Crossover B

Crossover B

Crossover C

Crossover C

Crossover D

Crossover D

Frankly, the freshest designs seem to be coming from… wait for it… Detroit.  I used to work for GM.  When I told my friends that I could get them a discount, no one was interested.  For this reason, I have a hard time believing that I’ll buy an American car.

Nonetheless, at least I can say, these cars aren’t boring!

Chevy Camaro

Chevy Camaro

Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang

Cadillac CTS

Cadillac CTS

Ford F150

Ford F150

I’m actually sad that Toyota has discontinued one of its more interesting cars: the FJ Cruiser.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota FJ Cruiser 2014

Given all the lame designs, maybe I’ll do what many folks do: buy something basic and fix it up.

jeep wrangler

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Rubicon

Jeep Rubicon

Answers:

  • Nissan Z Coupe: Blue one is older
  • Toyota 4Runner: Model A (2015), Model B (2008), Model C (2010)
  • Honda Civic A: 2008, Honda Civic B: 2015, Honda Civic C: 2003
  • Which is which: Car A: Honda Fit, Car B: Nissan Versa, Car C: Ford Fiesta, Car D: Toyota Yaris
  • Crossover A: Toyota RAV4, Crossover B: Nissan Rogue, Crossover C: Honda CRV, Crossover D: Ford Escape
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