Brilliant or boring?

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Experts say we are running out of ideas for innovative car designs

no more outlandish?photo: AP
no more outlandish?photo: AP

A striking front treatment with narrow, slanting headlamps and a predictable shape — that just about sums up modern car design which contains little in the way of surprises. Visitors to the recent Geneva car show were able to judge that for themselves.

Designers don’t duck the issue either and the experts readily admit that inspirational styling is currently rare.

They also explain why.

Current car design has come in for a lot of criticism.

Manufacturers lack imagination, say the detractors. Cars have ended up looking the same as each other.

Have car designers run out of ideas? “No,” says professor Peter Naumann, dean of the design faculty at Munich’s Technical College. The problem for many manufacturers is that the scope for creativity is being held back by marketing considerations.

Many carmakers rely on the “wow effect” — bowling over potential customers with a plethora of features and/or options.

This is exactly what customers want and although there are loads of variations on offer, from a superficial point of view the number of car types is limited.

Those interested in automobile aesthetics may lament the dullness yet doing things this way can pay off for a brand, said Naumann, provided the uniform design characteristics find general acceptance and are not too outlandish.

Buyers go for vehicles with prominent front grilles, some of them with monstrous proportions. Narrow headlamps are preferred and bodywork with bold, unfussy lines.

Such design, which eschews in-your-face effects in favour of sobriety, also goes down well with car-buyers, said Naumann. Volkswagen has honed this approach to perfection with prosaic car forms which are both simple and timeless.

Mass market manufacturers need to project a clear image - even if variety suffers as a result.

“Car design which is too bold tends to get punished,” said Germany’s leading car expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer.DPA



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