My mother is currently shopping for a new car and the whole process is completely frustrating her, as it would most people. Unlike most people, she knows exactly what she wants so that should makes things simpler, but it does not. The problem is that no one makes what she wants, because everyone makes the same damn thing! [Image: Auto Guide, Motor Trend, Pickup Trucks.com] Go shopping for a new car and you’ll quickly realize that most automakers make exactly the same things; sedans, CUVs, budget cheap cars, perhaps a pickup truck or a van. Here are some examples of trend setting vehicles and how they have become mainstream:
- In 2002 Acura introduced the MDX, which at the time was the first (I think) premium 3-row cross-over SUV. It had great packaging, spacious, drove nicely. Today every maker has one in ten flavors.
- Toyota Prius, the hybrid sales king. For years everyone has been playing catch-up, to a point where Honda’s Insight looks like a blatant copy. Ford, Hyundai, Nissan, and other attempt to compete but fall short. It’s become so ridiculous that Toyota decided to build their own competitors to the Prius; bigger, cheaper, more luxuries, they have a boring hybrid for everyone.
- BMW 3-series, perhaps the most obviously imitated vehicle. It’s a basic RWD sedan with just enough power to be a lot of fun and a suspension design that not even all that amazing. It’s ridiculous, but after all these decades no one seems to be able to make a better one.
- Even Toyota doesn’t know how to make a better Corolla, so with its recent redesign they hardly changed anything substantial. Toyota knows that it is the go-to car for millions of boring people with the need for basic reliable and efficient transportation, so why mess with success? There are dozens of cars out there trying to be Corollas too, offering nothing but meaningless differences in dimensions and prices in an effort to steal some sales numbers.
- Mercedes introduced the CLS in 2004, ridiculously called a four-door coupe. People loved it, and rightfully so, because it was damn pretty. It actually made sense as so many people buy sedans and never actually use the rear seat for passenger transport but want the utility of rear door because that’s where they place their briefcases, gym bags, or Labrador. VW was the first to make a copy in form of the CC, followed by BMW 6-series Grand Coupe. Some, such as Porsche, Aston Martin, Audi, Honda, and yes, BMW, added hatches to the back of theirs.
- Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, VW Toureg, and countless others. They are all alike and all come painted in the same fifty shades of gray. I forgot which was first, probably the CR-V.
- Camry, Altima, Accord, blah blah blah. The exception here could be the Mazda5. I drove it, and unlike what the whole automotive media industry thinks, it isn’t an amazing vehicle, it’s just less boring than the other choices.
This list can go on and on. Throw some dollar figures to the mix and you’ll quickly realize that car companies are applying ridiculous amounts of resources to make exactly the same product as someone else. But wait! There is hope! Every once in a while we do receive a sign of independent thinking from automakers. By some miracles sometimes engineers, marketers, and bean-counters have a joint brain-fart and actually market vehicles that are different. Examples include: Chevy Avalanche, Nissan Cross-Cabriolet, Honda Ridgeline, BRZ/FR-S twins, Subaru Baja, MINI Cooper, Mazda Miata, Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, BMW X6, Porsche Boxster. Some of these cars are ahead of their times and need generations to finally succeed. Some die after the first run. Some are just bad ideas. Others are instant hits and get blatantly copied. What happened to originality, colors, and fun? Actually there a lot of such cars available, they’re just not attainable, but that’s a story for another day. End of rant.