The Auto Show season is in full swing. It is an amazing time, when the world’s carmakers come out of their workshops and show off their wares under gleaming lights and rotating stages. Students wonder, scholars surmise and scribes purvey what will and what won’t be in the car of tomorrow and the driveway the day after. Children will view the glitzy paint and shiny chrome with bated breath. However, aficionados of the car hobby peek deep beneath the surface, exploring breakthroughs and breakdowns of engineering and design. With all that said, there is one point of contention in recent years: All the cars are starting to look the same….Why?
European and Asian governments mandates are strict in regard to pedestrian safety in case of an accident. Let’s face it, there are more people crossing the streets in Japan than in Texas. These rules call for a thorough re-think of the entire design process. Think you will make one little change and be okay? Not so, my friend, not so. Here’s why a Honda Accord and a Ford Fusion grow more and more similar as time passes.
Mid-engine cars are not exempt. They provide a whole different set of challenges. With less mechanical parts under the hood, the issue then becomes reservoirs, wiper arms and the seams between the top of the windshield and the leading edge of the roof. Since the cars are lower, the hood and roof must be able to “slide” the pedestrian off easily. SUV’s are being scrutinized as we speak.
If U.S. car companies are to remain competitive in Europe, they will have to adhere to these strict standards. Hence, newer models, if not influenced by other markets, are conceived by European subsidiaries. Don’t worry, eventually, we will get past this and will find fluency in design again (i.e. Infiniti M and BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe). Until then, I would suggest we pay strict attention to the wheels, the grilles and the taillights. They will be our only clue to distinguish a Honda from a Hyundai.