We’ve gotten to the point in automotive design where cars simply can’t get much uglier. Its true. I thought that the peak of the ugly car was the Pontiak Aztek (universally known as the Asstek) – but mankind never ceases to amaze me with its ability to build uglier, stupider cars than ever before.
I like to refer to the phenomenon of stupid, ugly cars as “The Homer”. Let me elaborate. In the Simpson’s Episode “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”, Homer’s long lost half brother Herb turns out to be the head of a car company, whose products Homer hates. Herb wants to create a car that appeals to the “average American” so he hires Homer to develop a car.
The End Result
The final car is a hideous monstrosity of compromises and idiotic features. Among them include two bubble domes, one to separate the children in the back – with optional restraints and muzzles. Three horns scattered within arms reach, giant cupholders (see where I’m going with this?), and an engine that sounded like “the world is coming to an end”.
The reality is that today, many cars are formed in the same manner. Rather than asking one simpleton however, the cars are formed by committee, and the end result is a smattering of unrelated features that focus groups say they want. Of course, ask any smart auto manufacturer, the consumer doesn’t know what they want. The consumer buys what you tell them to buy. “The Homer” symptom is characterized by a car that you can’t classify – it “crosses genres” – but the reality is most consumers do not want this. They don’t want to use a hammer to put in a screw.
When you build a car based on the lowest common denominator, the end result is almost always a hideous monstrosity. Each of these cars has been a miserable sales failure by attempting to be too many things, to the point where they wind up being nothing. Let me take us through the landscape of automotive abominations.
The first one I have already mentioned – the Pontiac Aztek. In concept, it seemed like a good idea – a highly functional, multi terrain vehicle with such features as a built in tent option, all wheel drive, and a chassis built on a car for “improved” driving dynamics. The end result was a bunch of features and design cues cobbled together into a complete sales failure.
Next up, I have to take Honda to task for building a pair of absolutely revolting answers to questions nobody asked. One of the key signs of “The Homer” syndrome is that the car has no clearly identifiable answer to any task – cars that try to be all things to all people wind up being nothing to nobody, like an all-mountain ski or an all-season tire – the end result is crap.
Look at the Crosstour. Look at the ZDX. Tell me what they are? You can’t. They are nothing. They are amorphous blobs with 12 cup holders. They supposedly handle like a car, yet not quite as well. Yet they have the ability to tackle terrain like an SUV, but not really, since they’re built on cars. They’re too heavy to be quick, and their engines are too large to provide decent fuel economy. They truly are the brainchildren of the focus group and demonstrate a complete lack of corporate oversight in the development process. Nobody said “this is our brand, does this car fit into our brand?”
The BMW X6? I don’t even know. I’ve gone off on this vehicle before. Its not as fast as a lightweight sports car, despite the mammoth engine. It doesn’t handle like a sports sedan due to the stupidly high center of gravity. It doesn’t have as much room as a luxury sedan due to the silly sloped rear end. It doesn’t go off-road like an SUV due to inappropriate wheels and tires. It doesn’t get the fuel economy of a car due to its weight and engine size as well as AWD drivetrain. It costs more than it should. It truly is an enigma and I seriously wonder what kind of depraved troglodyte even purchases one?
And finally, the pièce de résistance – the Nissan Murano (Moron-o) Cross-Cabriolet. Wait, what? Its an SUV . . . that doesn’t carry anything due to its silly top. Its a convertible . . . that rides like a truck and handles like a drunken Russian bear. What the hell is it? I seriously don’t know. Somewhere, someone in some focus group said “You know what, I love having an SUV, but what I’d really like is a convertible.” The geniuses at Nissan must have taken this to mean that instead of having two vehicles, an SUV and a convertible, for specific tasks, this person wanted them combined – resulting in a completely useless, silly looking and plain insane vehicle. Did Nissan think people would really purchase this thing?
Well, they’re making the Juke (a performance compact SUV crossover sport activity vehicle) so they’re obviously smoking something.