Opinion: Modern Cars are Designed to Catch Your Attention and Not Admiration

From Renault to Rolls-Royce and every brand in between, all carmakers want to make an ‘impact’ with their designs, and they are all overdoing it.

By Shivank Bhatt | on February 14, 2024 Follow us on Autox Google News

A thing of beauty is a joy forever, they say. I couldn’t agree more. Good aesthetics matter in almost every aspect of life. So, whether it’s your partner or the toaster at home, it’s always nice to be surrounded by beauty, isn’t it?

I am sure you’d agree that cars are no exception to this – if anything, aesthetics matter for a car than most other purchases in life. Waking up to the view of a stunning piece of metal parked in your driveaway can have therapeutic effects. At times, it may even bring greater joy than going out for a drive. So, it’s crucial for a car – which is often considered by many as an extension of our personality – to leave a lasting impression. Now, this brings me to modern car designs, as I have an axe to grind on this matter.

Take the recently unveiled Tata Curvv. Such a good-looking car, isn’t it? Sharp, striking, and contemporary – it has a bold and brawny design. And therein lies my problem.  The fact that I have to use words like ‘bold’ and ‘brawny’ instead of ‘classy’ or ‘elegant’. And it’s not just about Tata or the Curvv; it’s what I feel about virtually every new car that has hit the market in the last two or three years.

There’s no denying the fact that every carmaker worth its salt today wants to project itself as progressive and disruptive. While it may sound good on paper, it often translates into designs that are incohesive, incessantly complex, and sometimes outright gaudy. This trend has now become ubiquitous across all segments of the industry. From Renault to Rolls-Royce and every brand in between, all carmakers want to make an ‘impact’ with their designs.

Perhaps it’s a matter of evolving tastes, or maybe it’s simply what the new generation likes. Perhaps I’m getting older – that’s how I try to rationalise every time I see a new car break cover.  However, of late, social media has sort of convinced me that modern car designs are disliked by everyone. For instance, the oversized nostrils on newer BMWs seem to displease a 10-year-old and a pensioner on life support in equal measure. It appears that, aside from a few outliers, most of us are in agreement. And carmakers are undoubtedly aware of this. It’s hard to believe that they are oblivious to these sentiments, with millions of people in ‘market research’.

So, why aren’t carmakers addressing the proverbial elephant in the room? Why do they persist with obnoxious and over-the-top car designs? I will tell you why, and it took me a while to realise this. You see, the problem with modern cars is that they are designed to gain attention and not admiration. Think about it. If you come out with an understated and classy design, you’ll have the audience quietly appreciating it in their heads, and that’s about it. But when you introduce something polarising, it usually sparks a wild uproar; the internet won’t stop raging over it for months, sometimes even years. There would be endless discussions, trolling, and chatter about every contour and overhang, and, of course, everyone would have something to say. In short, it becomes a conversation starter.

In social media terms, it’s called driving ‘engagement’, which is great in a world driven by terms such as ‘like’, ‘share’, and ‘subscribe’. Your product may be subjected to a lot of hate, but hey, it stays in the headlines for much longer compared to Mr. Good Looking from a rival brand. It’s your product that gets the attention, more views, and more clicks. And that means somewhere down the line, this whole frenzy will ultimately make your product reach a larger audience. Whether they buy the product or not is a different story. You keep appearing on their screens time and again. Job done!

Another interesting aspect of this LOOK-AT-ME design philosophy – and I came across this observation online – is that it’s related to the fact that new cars have now become more of a fashion accessory. Similar to fashion trends, buyers are naturally drawn to items currently in vogue. And what’s in vogue these days in the car business, you ask? ‘Bold and brawny’, of course.

The downside of this instant gratification, however, is that modern car designs tend to lose their appeal after a certain period, just like fashion trends. This means that most of these new designs do not age well and have a limited shelf life. They aren’t timeless. They aren’t meant to be.

While I don’t expect this trend to change overnight, I do wish to see carmakers go back to the drawing board, take inspiration from the past, and bring back some sophistication in this business. And if someone thinks that won’t be fashionable or good enough for modern tastes, well, nobody disses Ray-Ban for selling more than a half-a-century old designs like Aviators and Wayfarers today. Sometimes, it’s just about persisting in your belief and standing your ground. And that’s something that never goes out of fashion...

Tags: Tata Curvv

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