Sitting at Five Guys and munching burger with fries behind pile to peanuts made me thinking of the fast food industry and its universal model: burger + fries. Burger can be different size or shape but at the end of the day is is still a burger. Fries can be fried is different oil, with- or without skin but at the end of the day it is still a potato (or strange industrial mixture if you happen to dine in McDonald). Wendy’s, Burger King, A&W, Five Guys, etc.. will serve similar combo of burger, fries and soda for similar money. Similarities between different fast food dishes resembles similarities between cars. Car industry seems to fall into the universal model of design that leads to blend all brands into a shapeless mass.
Looking at the most crowded segment, mid size sedans, we have plenty of cars that are trying to be forgettable and uninspiring: similar colors, similar shapes, similar sizes. Similar price tags for similar set of features and similar boredom of the interior design. I can easily guess that all designers graduated the same sort of Toyota-Hyundai-Honda school where any extravaganza is severely punished. It seems everyone wants to be located in the same middle ground and match features of competition. If everyone is basically making almost identical car then perhaps we do not have any real competition here, do we? No matter if we go to Honda, Toyota, Hyundai or Nissan we get similar sort of car for similar sort of money. One car is more-less a copy of another car. Originality and thinking out of the box become so distant and foreign that any attempt to be different ends up with a car that looks like it was designed by a committee where no one agrees on anything (Malibu and Impala) or a car that does not know what it is (Juke).
Instead of building cars that stand out and differ from the crowd, automakers produce nearly identical boxes. Those boxes on wheels do job well transporting people from home to work but their driving dynamics and appearance is on pair with TV dinner. Of course if you need just a peoples-transporter on four wheels and you do not desire fancy features, you can certainly focus on the cheapest and the most basic models. Almost each car maker has a basic model stripped of all the unnecessary gadgets that would save you some money. But beware: the overwhelming mediocrity, visible in mid-range vehicles, is replaced by the race to the bottom in low end cars. There is reason why VW Jetta starts from $15000: the basic model still carries asthmatic four cylinder motor that was designed twenty-something years ago. This motor has enough power just to take you to the nearest grocer and it has been already abandoned in entire Golf lineup. There is reason why Mitsu Mirage starts at $12000: its interior is made of melted plastic bottles and three cylinder motor is good for lawn mower rather than passenger car – this makes the price way to high for what it offers.
From the petrol head point of view modern cars become desperately boring and emotionally flat, even if the are more reliable than 20 year ago. Parking lots in shopping centers are full identical metal boxes usually in some sort of silver of gray color.
Car makers, please start making cars that stay in memory, cars that wake emotions and generate impressions. We need more variety on roadways or I will get into depression while eating in fast food and looking at boring content of parking lots.