Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, once said “The only thing that is constant is change”. More than anything else, automobiles have always stayed true to this adage. Over the course of time, they have evolved significantly to become what they are today. While the industry has grown leaps and bounds since the invention of automobile more than a century ago and the automobiles themselves have become sleeker, faster and incredibly safer, their design and styling doesn't seem to be heading where it should be.
No, we aren't treading to the big debate that all cars look the same these days. Apart from some standout exceptions that were few and far in between, cars of the same era have always looked similar to our eyes. The thing that’s troubling us though is the so-called ‘family design language’ that automotive manufacturers seem to have adopted en masse. What’s driving this change? Is it a rapid change in consumers' tastes or a deliberate attempt by manufacturers or, worse, a complete shortage of ideas from designers? We might never know the real reason but all we can say is this is getting difficult to digest. Why does all cars of a particular brand have to look the same? Can't the individual models be given identities of their own?
Take Volkswagen, for instance. From Polo to Passat, there is hardly a differentiating factor when it comes to their looks. There might be an additional chrome strip here, a slat there and the profile of the DRLs might look different, but that’s about it. Sadly, Audi and Porsche mimic this trend higher up the group’s hierarchy too. Unless you possess a keen eye for detail, identifying an A3 or A4 from an A6 or a Cayenne from a Macan might prove to be difficult. Volkswagen Automotive Group isn't alone in this fast-spreading stigma. The situation elsewhere is no different either.
Ever since ‘flame surfacing’ was ditched, all BMWs look like mirror images of each other when parked side by side. Ultimate driving machines they may be, but unique looking machines they aren't. Not far away in Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz is joining the fray too. Differentiating between the C-Class and S-Class has never been this challenging. Even Jaguar and Land Rover, with just a handful of models in their portfolio, are no longer finding it worthwhile to bring out individual styling cues for their models. Fords slapped with the Aston Martin-inspired grille, Kias penned by Peter Schreyer, the strikingly-similar rear ends of the Maruti-Suzuki Alto 800 and Celerio – the list would go on.
While these family styling cues are often painstakingly-designed to impart oodles of class and grace to the brand, they lack the all-important uniqueness. If you think that’s an impossible combination to achieve, Jeep shows us it's not. Despite a very strong family lineage and a legacy to live up to with every new launch, Jeep designs models that are instantly recognizable as one but still unique in their own ways. Be it the Renegade, Cherokee or Grand Cherokee, there is no mistaking them for anything else. Hyundai’s much-hyped ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ is a case in point too. It shares the same design elements with the entire lineup and yet manages to dish out models that look similar yet convincingly unique.
Agreed, adopting a common design language brings with it a host of benefits. Brand awareness goes up significantly, the chances of success are higher and the company’s designers need not toil for long as all they have to do is take an existing design, tweak it a bit, give it a nip here and a tuck there and, voila, a new model is born. But, don’t the customers, the actual car-buying public who part with their money to own one, deserve variety? They aren't out shopping for apparel to be greeted by the same designs in different sizes when they enter the showrooms. Please, get us back to those days when individual models had identities of their own and didn't have to piggyback with one carried over from the brand.