Hooniverse Asks- What's the Most Generic Car Sold Today?

In Alex Cox’s classic movie Repo Man, Emilio Estevez’ character ate FOOD and drank BEER, each an inside joke for those familiar with the Ralphs Grocery chain’s brand of plain wrap foods. Some people shun plain wrap as the trappings of the impoverished, but truth be told, the cheaper brands are usually made by name-brand manufacturers, on the same lines and with little difference other than label and price.
But that doesn’t necessarily translate to cars and trucks. In the automotive world, plain wrap usually refers to a cop car that’s missing the easily identifiable paint scheme, lights and radio antennas of a patrol car, but typically still a proverbial sore thumb because nobody but a municipal actuary would buy the base model of any car. In fact, when it comes to cop or federal investigator rides, the fact that they are almost always Crown Vics leads one to readily identify them as such because who else buys those cars with V-rated tires?
Those big Fords are going the way of $2-gallon regular, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a spate of pretty generic, seen one you’ve seen ’em all cars still out there to buy. Some cars, at their base-level, are pretty bland and innocuous, while others fail at memorability even when tarted up a bit. Worst of all are the cars that when you see them, even the most hip car dude or dudette has a hard time remembering just exactly who makes them – so cookie cutter are they in appearance. So which is the worst of that lot? What car is the most generic ride?
Image source: [governmentauctions.org] – sans the crappy P-shop.

101 Comments

  1. Way too easy: It's a toss-up between the the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camery, and the Honda Accord.

      1. I think that's it's more a perception that the comment was just a tossed out answer without much fore-thought and possibly a touch of xenophobia.
        "LOL, all that Jap-crap!"
        Not saying that was the intent, but possibly the perception.

    1. Actually, I don't find the current Camry "generic" in looks. It's damn ugly. Like a fat chick stuffed into undersized spandex. It's lumpy and bulbous.
      Driving dynamics, thought, are quite yawn inducing. It's such a shame that engine is so nice.

    1. That my friend, is a great call. Not only does it look like a nap on wheels but I bet the three diamond logo has one of the lower recognition factors out there.

        1. And then they showed up in the used car market ("WTH is a 'Classic'?"). I saw one the other day, and the last "C" had fallen off of the trunk emblem, making it a "CLASSI".

    2. Oh hell no – Mitsubishi Galant is the most dangerous thing on the road. You come across one of them at a 4-way stop, you'd better yield, because those guys just don't give a flip. They'll run right over you, because for them the best thing that can come out of it is that their car gets totaled by the insurance company so they won't have to finish paying off that 8-year note.

      1. Down here in Florida, Galants are scary for another reason – they're all rentals driven by tourists.

        1. Galants may be terrifying in their own right, but after 2 years in Florida, I'd have to says it's the local drivers you've got to be careful of. I'm far more at ease when surrounded by out of state plates.

      2. Replace "Galant" with "Endeavour" and I'll throw a +eleventy-billion your way. As best I can figure, all 10,000/year of them were sold within a 15-mile radius of my house and all to people who managed to scrape or dent at least one fender before ever getting off the dealer's lot.

  2. How do I not respond Beige Camry. Specifically from about 97-04.
    "What kind of car do you drive?"
    "There are different kinds?"

    1. I think "sold today" frames the question as applying to 2011 models. But Camry is still a very correct answer.

    2. Just because you owned one doesn't make it right. But damn, that car was driving purgatory. It wasn't bad. Or good. It handled okay. It was moderately comfortable. It was the most completely and thoroughly mediocre experience ever.

  3. If, at first glance, your premium luxury car looks like a Chrysler 200, it's too generic. If you have to rely upon a mesh grill and large anodized brake gills to distinguish it from other vehicles, it's too generic. If you've tossed a 40 year old distinctive styling theme on the scrap heap to make your car look more like others on the road, you're doing it wrong.
    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-6mwkIFApTuw/TV4otPyCR_I/AAAAAAAAAHc/SzG8n_3ui4I/s1600/jaguar-xj-official.jpg&quot; width=500>

      1. An ugly Jaguar, but a Jaguar to be sure. The S-type was a self-consciously retro-wannabe mess. Even the much-hated X-type looked better in that it was properly proportioned.

    1. Other than the black plastic trim pieces alongside the rear windows, I don't think that these Jags look bad at all. As for tossing aside a 40-year-old styling theme, the sad truth was that theme was no longer selling.

      1. Yeah, and seeing them in person, they're far more impressive looking than in photos.

    2. not current… but recent… i just saw another XK-R today… and while there are A LOT of similarities between it and the A/S5 and the BMW 6 series.. it's a lot more swoopy and sexy.

  4. Just for the record, "unbranded" generic foods were first introduced to the U.S. in 1978 by Jewel food stores — not Ralph's. The idea originated in France several years prior.

  5. I'll vote for the downscale versions of the Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion.
    Sure, the ones we see on the cover of Motor Trend, or on display in the showroom are often really stylish and sporty with uplevel trim, attractive wheels, and so on. But the vast number you eventually see on the road in rental and company fleets just look plain and boring as hell by comparison. Small steel wheels with plastic wheel covers (which make the wheel wells look too big), devoid of interesting trim items, and almost always in a boring shade of white or silver.

    1. I think the way the body sides are sculpted is distinctive. The indented line that runs back from the headlights, which doesn't quite connect with the second line that curves from under the mirrors back to the taillights. Also, the indentation along the bottom of the doors. I find those details interesting. Maybe people don't know what it is, but it's a step above bland in styling.

      1. I agree. It might not be well known, but the little details make it fairly distinctive, even if the overall profile is similar to other late-model family sedans.

      2. I've always disliked creases done just for style (or worse yet that look bad but are done for ease of lining things-up) that are concave. They gather dirt, yuck.

  6. This true story should give you an idea. Two weeks ago, there was an APB out for killers in Oakland driving a white Dodge Avenger. Three days later, the cops said, "No, we actually meant a white Camry."

  7. In silhouette they all look more or less the same. Gone is the golden era of metal bumpers, chrome, fins and other such fuel mileage sucking, beauty enhancing design elements. Body colored plastic bumpers helps everything blend into everything else as pointed out by my astute wife the other day.

    1. My Mom has one. Midlevel trim in white with beige interior. There aren't even cupholders in the back.
      She was impressed our base Impreza had more amenities.
      But my step dad retired out of GM and will buy nothing else.

      1. They're less woeful in SS trim with the V8 engine. Nice roadtrip machine.

    2. The great thing about the Impala is if you remove the badge, it doesn't look like anything. Perfect if you're making a bank ad or similar.

    1. I think the Kizashi looks like a business suit: formal, respectable, no mullet. As Black Steelies, says, like a Jetta, at least the old ones before they sucked, or maybe even more like the ca. 2000 Passat.

  8. How about a car I've actually forgotten the name to?
    <img src="http://autotraderca.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/800px-2704-2706_chevrolet_epica1.jpg?w=613&h=345&quot; width=500">
    (Actually, the Chevrolet Epica was phased out of the Canadian market in '06, so we can't buy it new anymore. You guys down south only had the Suzuki bedged version for what I assume was a few days. Still, I nominate this one because I seriously blanked out typing the name to search for a pic.)

    1. Back in my GM days I "won" one of these for a weekend as part of the launch. Being a chassis engineer, job one was a scandinavian flick on a snowy patch of road.
      Turn, lift and FLICK… the chassis actually rotated fairly nicely and I was able to balance the car with the throttle. Mid corner I put a call in to the engine room to start digging us out of the slide. The response from the traction control was to kill ALL power, just drop the throttle dead, causing me to spin out. I didn't hit anything, but it was enough to kill any desire that the inline 6 created.
      The other weird item on these is that if you have the cruise set, then speed up using the gas pedal, it will cancel the cruise, meaning that if you speed up to pass someone, you will pull in front of them then slow 20 kph below your initial speed before you figure out what happened.

    2. Yes, here in the U.S. it was the Suzuki Verona, with its main claim to fame being the transverse inline six. Built by Daewoo, and rebadged as a Suzuki. Eminently forgettable.

    3. You've just solved a 3-years-old mystery for me. One day in '08 I was out riding my motorcycle west of Jamestown, ND on I-94 and was passed by one of these, and couldn't figure out what the heck it was; to add to the intrigue it had a license plate design I haven't seen before or since (probably eastern Canadian.)

        1. Here in Arizona, the snowbirds I'm familiar with drive huge motorhomes (maybe towing something like this) or massive diesel dually pickups hauling enormous fifth wheel trailers. Driving very slowly, trying to find a place to park the edifice.

  9. A local Chevy dealership, for many years, pushed the "plain-jane pickup truck" shtick. A two wheel drive, 5-speed manual, crank window, rubber floor truck that was as basic as you could get. They sold them for just a few nickels above ten grand…and they sold a boat-load of them in the local area.
    <img src="http://www.kosmix.com/files-autos/chr/imgs/2337.jpg"&gt;
    I'm pretty sure that they still sell a "basic" truck for the desired public interest at that dealership.

    1. I actually bought just such a new Silverado a couple of months ago. I needed a vehicle with a rear seat and use a truck enough to justify having one. I didn't want to add a 4th vehicle to the fleet, so I got an extended cab Work Truck. Sadly you can't get the 5-speed anymore. At the time with rebates, they came in a little under $20k out the door.

    2. Any smart truck dealer will keep some basic plain-jane trucks on the lot and will not hesitate to sell them. The trucks still have some built-in profit. They're also popular for start-up businesses and today's one-truck buyer might want a fleet down the road. A couple years back I drove a base 2005 F-150 work truck with V6 and 5-speed stick for a month. Though plain, it was surprisingly pleasant to drive and it got decent mileage too.

  10. And the 2011 model adds some really crappy Altezza-style taillights. A step backward.

  11. I might get stoned for saying this, but here it is. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi at their entry level to mid offerings are nearly identical. I know they are competing with each other, but there isn't a whole lot distinguishing them from each other. It almost seems that each tier of car for all makers are generic since competition is forcing them close to each to each other.
    It's like at each price point there is mostly the same offering across the board.

    1. The latest A4 is -meh-. Nothing jumps out at me about it like the B5 A4/S4 did at the time. Even the B6 A4 was a tight package. It is totally overshadowed by the A5 sedan/hatch. Same with the A6 vs A7.
      So yes, all 3 are aiming for the same market have drawn the same car.

      1. A friend of mine has a theory that there aren't more Cavaliers than there are other cars, but that people keep realizing they bought Cavaliers so they're on the market at all times.

    1. It's true, the suburbanites you mention are, um, overflowing with enthusiasm. It's not too much to say they can't contain themselves! etc.

  12. Damn near all of them. In high-volume trim, every popularly priced car, truck and SUV is about as generic as it gets. Same goes for luxury cars ever since every brand started aping BMW/Mercedes. Exotic supercars? Yawn, all the same.
    Save for a handful of sports cars, the Camaro/Challenger/Mustang and some niche products like the MINI, nothing stands out anymore.
    But I'm going to give Hyundai/Kia the award for most generic. Rave all you want about the new styling, every one of their products looks like about a dozen other manufacturers' cars. They're totally uninteresting and quickly becoming ubiquitous….which is a testament to Hyundai's success in this market.

  13. Generic because it's a differently-labeled version of a more expensive car, like a Škoda, or generic because it's ubiquitous, like an Endeavor?
    And what about reverse genericism? Like say, taking a Camry and making a Lexus ES350?
    Why am I answering a question with a question?

  14. Sigh. You know what, it's not even worth arguing about anymore. Ignorance is bliss. Be blissful.

    1. To be fair I have only bought one new car in my life, it's the car I regret most ever purchasing, and it was a '03 VW Golf. For a long time I thought it was quirky, I even liked that about it, i thought it gave it character. Then one day I made a list of all that had broken. To bad searching jalopnik posts with google utterly fails after the redesign, so I cannot dig it up quickly. It surprised me how long it was when I typed it out and made me realize that frankly that particular car was a total piece of crap. Here's the kicker, I am mainly a bicycle commuter, the car had less than 40500 miles when I fixed it for the last time and sold it. I sold it the same day I fixed it I was so upset. I really hope that the new ones do turn-out to be better, but it will take a couple of years to see if that is true. But VW has a really big problem to surmount, those gen Jettas in partucualr sold very well, and so many people know someone that had a lot of problems with them.

      1. Oh I forgot everything was expensive to fix, parts were not stocked by the warehouses that served autozone and the like, and so it was expensive to fix every time. That did not help matters. Sorry this has been more therapeutic than anything for me to get it out.

      2. My parents Camry needed a complete engine rebuild at 12,000 kms. And another at 18,000 kms. And a completely new engine at 24,000 kms. Lynn's rental Camry had its entire wheel-hub come off last week. The Corolla we were commuting to school in broke down and stranded us on the side of the road in January. By your logic, all Toyotas are therefore unreliable. Also, every GM car I've ever owned has needed major repairs at least once a year. Therefore, all GM's are unreliable too. Further, my Ford Ranger had to get a lot of work done. Therefore, Fords are terrible too.
        What, that style of logic isn't okay when I do it?
        Blanket statements piss me off. I expect more of this site.

        1. I'm not trying to make the generalization in my comment that since my Golf was bad all VW were bad. I should have made that clearer. I tried in the reply but did not do a good enough job. Mostly it was me venting, I'm still upset about that Golf I had. Also I summarized it at the end of the first comment: VW has a problem now due to that generation of Jetta. It sold so well and so many people had problems like I did (CCM and windows for example were widespread issues and not just my bad luck) that the word of mouth will cause trouble for a few more years even if the current models turn-out to be better.

        2. I had to replace the clutch in my parents' VW trike after the fork thingy broke. After I replaced it, the new fork thinger broke, too. Therefore, all VWs really suck. However, the engine was unkillable and never leaked any coolant, if that makes you feel any better.

      3. But when I can think of ten people I know without even trying who have had Toyotas completely crap out — including my parents, who had to replace the engine in their Camry 3 times — that's an anomaly, and merely anecdotal, because we all know Toyotas are reliable and awesome. Or when every GM I've owned has needed major repairs at least once a year, that doesn't count either, because USA! USA!Blanket statements piss me off. I expect better from people on this site.

        1. I'm sorry, honestly I was not trying to come across this way, but what I will take away from this is to try and be better commentator. That evening I was in a bad mood, you can read about it in the stormchasing. I was simply griping, wanted to make the point that VW now is going to face some trouble due to that gen Jetta/Golf, but now that I reread it I can see your point of view. Again sorry, I'm not a great commentator to begin with, this place is special, I like your comments/posts often, thanks for all you do here, and I'll try harder. Have a good one.

          1. Meh, yours didn't really piss me off that much. You at least had concrete examples. The whole “all VW's are crap” blanket statements make me mad, when the Golf is arguably the best small car in the world today. If I said the same about Ford because of the Pinto, or Chevy because of the 80's, I'd have people yelling at me that I wasn't being fair to them, but somehow the same is just fine for VW.

  15. Mom: Put it on a plate, son… You'll enjoy it more…."
    Otto: (Eating with a spoon straight out of a can of "Food"), "I don't think I could enjoy it more, Mom…. Mmmm…Mmm.
    Kinda' like these cars……

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