I can not recall how many times I looked at passing car and thinking how it would look with this or that changed. Since I’m not special I believe that similar self entitled feeling “I know better….” goes nearly every day through heads of other people although not necessary about cars. Countless times I looked at cars parked around through finger made photo frame and I realized “This should look different!” or “If it only looked in different way I would buy it….”.
I am wiling to believe this wishful thinking about imaginary modifications imposed on surrounding world is not necessary driven from perceiving things as bad or ugly but rather seeing things through gradual improvement; sort of “Let’s make things a bit better or nicer here”. This is not just about cars but all other bits and pieces of our daily life: houses, appliances, furniture, municipal services, condo board, road system, local grocer, kids of next door neighbor, etc. It is not about how things are around us but how we perceive them through our senses.
Disappointingly car designers and manufacturers seem to not share our wishful thinking about improvements. Looking at city traffic and comparing cars moving from one stop light to another I can’t stop thinking that those vehicles could be better, nicer, more functional. It is not that modern cars are bad (at least not all of them): Honda Fit (called Jazz in old continent) is a good car, Ford Focus is a good car, Lancia Ypsilon is also a good car (despite its dreadful motor). It is about sense that car manufacturers could make those cars better. This sense is even stronger when I realize that manufactures know they could make them better. So, we want cars to be better and we want manufacturers to build better cars, but manufacturers make improvements that do not always reflect our vision of “better”.
Old VW Golf (first, or second generation) was crampy, noisy, slow, but it handle well, it was indestructible and easy to fix. Many of those are still on road in various stages of rust. New Golf is bigger, more spacious and more comfortable. One would say: “It is better!” but after you look closer and do further comparison it is clear the new car is also heavier, ten times more expensive, difficult to fix, and it does not handle as well as the old one did. This comparison can be done for nearly every car that has been on market for more then 10 or 15 years.
Cars got bigger, more comfortable, faster, but at the same time they are much heavier, more expensive, and their maintenance (after warranty runs out) is usually a nightmare. There may be two reasons for this questionable “improvements”: cars (like any other kitchen appliance) can not be design to last forever because we would not buy a new one for a long time. Cars are design to to be: 1) difficult to fix so we almost always have to pay for specialized service, 2) too expensive to fix after warranty expires so we have to buy new car. On the other hand socialist over regulation of the industry forces car makers to fiddle complicated safety systems (adds to the weight) and implement expensive cleaning system in engine output (affects power).
Have you ever wonder why new BMW 7 or Jag XK have much taller front bonnet than the same cars build 20 years ago? New safety regulations require front hood to be able to bend couple centimeters before it reaches engine block. In the eyes of bureaucrats such flexibility supposed to protect pedestrian from injury in case front hit and fall on the hood. So car makers had to raise front fenders and round front hood to accommodate those couple centimeters imagined by bureaucrats. This of course changed entire front of the car and we will never see again beautiful shape of 1990 BMW 7 or 1980 Jaguar XK.
Many other examples prove that cars are being constantly improved not in the way we wish: electric steering isolates driver from handling response, power gadgets require kilometers of electrical cabling that is impossible to trace when something goes wrong, recycling mantra led the interior to be manufactured out of old plastic bottles (ever noticed how new cars stink inside?).
Perhaps it is time to stop following idiotic regulations and start following common sense, so the wishful thinking may become reality some day….