Since fathering two bundles of joy and then turning thirty earlier this year, I’m very aware that I’m nearer forty than twenty now and that trying to keep ‘down with the kids’ would probably result in me resembling a stuttering politician at the MOBO’s. On the other hand, I’m equally aware that it’s not quite pipe and slippers time yet and that being thirty doesn’t mean I should act as though I was born in nineteen thirty. With this in mind, I was recently forced to have a word with myself when I uttered to a friend ‘Is it just me or do all cars look the same these days?’ As soon as I realised I’d said the words out loud, I wanted to somehow reel them back in. As a true lover of cars and all that goes with them, I kept telling myself that statements like these are ill judged and narrow minded.
After several days of remorse and self flagellation however, I constantly came back to this statement and I think that if better explained, I may actually have had a point. Firstly, let me confirm that senility is not creeping in and I am perfectly capable of telling a Ford from a Ferrari. You will not see me in Tesco’s car park trying to desperately get my key to unlock a Range Rover’s boot when I own an Audi. My point is this-; all of the models within many manufacturers’ ranges are becoming identical. I’ve always said that all recent Astons share the same shape, just squashed or stretched or two more doors added but they’re not alone. Porsche have been guilty of a lack of imagination since the Boxster was introduced, Audi have stuck the same goatee beard on their entire range and the less said about Peugeots the better.
I’m sure that if asked why they do this, the guilty manufacturers would give pretty much the same two word answer – ‘Corporate Identity’. As far as I can tell, this is a phrase dreamt up by marketing types which means any particular company’s products are instantly recognisable as their own because they all share certain characteristics. This is fair enough, I agree that a BMW should be masculine and butch, they always have been. By the same token, all Kias should look as if they won’t last until the end of the week. My theory though, is that the true answer could be summed up with just one word – Recession.
Employing a decent car designer is not cheap, you could of course employ a cheap car designer but don’t be disappointed when the result is so ugly it can only be shown on TV after the watershed. It seems to me then that in these days of credit crunching, many car manufacturers are being frugal by paying a designer to come up with one general image and then letting the cleaning lady adapt this image to fit whatever model they desire on that particular day. I don’t blame them for taking this attitude though. Look at Porsche, they designed the 911 sometime in the 1960’s and have basically altered it in various ways to spawn their entire range. Is it a coincidence that this relatively small luxury car maker boasted profits of over £6bn last year whereas Toyota, the world’s largest car manufacturer suffered a 69% drop in profits? Porsche’s shareholders won’t care one bit that the Cayenne, the Cayman and the Panamera share the aesthetic qualities of a sceptic wound.
So come on car makers of the world, be brave. Don’t be afraid to stray away from your corporate identities every now and again and produce something that isn’t just identifiable by it’s badge