• Apr 28, 2006

Inside Line brings us news of a designer's panel that took place in Detroit on Wednesday, featuring notables like Chrysler Group vice president of Jeep, truck and component design Ralph Gilles. Mr. 300 and others lamented about the horrors of going retro, while Ford North American Car director of design Pat Schiavone remarked upon the idea that "heritage," not necessarily retro, is of importance to American car manufacturers.

Designers also gave something of a vocabulary lesson during the panel. Apparently in designer slang, a vehicle that is awful despite a beautiful presentation is "craptastic."

[Source: Inside Line]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      The S-Class is more RX-8 than TT, in my review of the S-Class (http://www.epinions.com/content_221207301764) I draw this and other parallels between the two, but the RX-8 was likely influenced by the TT.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Porsche 911 has been retro for 40 years- It just goes to show that it pays to go with what works.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The basic issue in design is that they currently have no clear direction. Everyone's waiting for the next Audi TT to arrive (figuratively, not literally) so they can all copy it. Since even the new S-Class has TT-like fender flares, and designers are reduced to copying even bad ideas like the 7-Series trunk, it's time.

      And, no, a huge grille does not constitute a styling direction.

      As for unobtainium, I believe its generally used to form ultra-thin roof pillars.
      • 8 Years Ago
      There is a difference between design and style. Style can change, but good design will always be good. The people who build cars need to be designers, not stylists. Once they discover this, they will not longer need to chase trends.

      Look at Porsche and Jeep. Two completly different market,s completly different designs, but they both understand timeless design.

      A Porsche built today will look remarkably similar to a Porsche built 30 years ago, but no one is calling the Cayman a "retro" design... They have just found a good design that stands the test of time. Same thing with Jeep... I don't think anyone considers the Wrangler to be a "retro" car, however it's styling is so similar to Jeeps from the 40's. Once again, they found their style and stuck with it, so now it defies being classified as being from a certain era.

      Everyone wants Dodge to build the Challenger. The Challenger is disgustingly ugly. People like it because it's just like the original... guess what, if the original was relevant, they never would have stopped making it.

      The New Beetle is a perfect example of why not to go retro. People loved the old Beetle, it was a product of it's time and it made perfect sense while it was being produced. When it was no longer relevant, It ceased to be produced. Those cars are now classics, and anyone who loves them and wants one can get one. But who in their right mind would buy the new one? The New Beetle is style, not design. It solves no problem, fills no need, and is completely meaningless when taken out of context of the original.

      The audi TT, which has similar looks (squint hard) to the New Beetle, however, is brilliant design, and makes sense for its time, and will no doubt be a classic.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think the S-Class is far more a RX-8 Sedan than TT.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Everything goes "retro" at one point or another, just look at furniture, colors, dress lengths, tie widths and their designs, it's not bad in my opinion.

      We need to keep in mind that "retro" might look really new to someone who has never seen the original.

      For instance, lets say a customized 57 Chey might look great to somone who never saw the original in it's original form. I guess the "heritage" description might be a good description.

      You know for some of us who have been around the block a few times some of the "new" styles look retro.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Emergent linguistic patterns are one of the strong indications that an organization really is changing and adapting to a new way of business. This is confidence-inspiring.

      And it's about freaking time the American designers got on the ball with interior design! I agree with Mr. Gilles: the Scion xB interior is envy-inspiring, particularly the rear seats. I for one would like to see a Chrysler-badged small car (in addition to the Dodge Caliber.) Dodge is nice but growing up I always liked that the Chryslers were more luxurious inside. Then the K-car came along and, while it saved the company, it also yielded the ultra-conservative conceptual template for all other Chrysler cars. All the designers became gun-shy; for shame. Looks like they're finally getting their mojo back!
      • 8 Years Ago
      From the front, yes, a BMW is unmistakeable. For a while there, though, I confused the 3 series with the Honda Civic at first glance. And the first time I saw the new 6 series, I thought it was a Buick. I thought to myself, "What happened?"

      Lately I've been watching Mercedes models change in appearance and while I like that the designs are fresh, I do miss the tank-like, run-forever looks of the old SEL. In Europe, Mercedes used to be an old person's car. Somewhere along the way it became a rich person's car.

      I have an Audi TT. It is definitely a styling statement. But it's kind of like meeting a pretty person who suddenly seems less pretty because their personality is ugly: this TT has been an expensive nightmare of spotty reliability. At some point, I became fed up with all the little problems and just stopped driving it. It looks more beautiful sitting in the far corner of my driveway than it ever did getting pulled apart on a monthly basis to the tune of $800 on average. The lesson learned here is that styling isn't everything.

      Meanwhile, my Toyota Tacoma, which was my 3rd choice after the F150 and Silverado, is completely reliable and fun to drive, even though I fairly well abuse it. The styling is still nice, in my opinion, even though I was completely smitten with the looks of the 98 F150. My 89 Silverado looked dated just two years after I bought it, and the interior was a disaster of cheap switches, "bong" and "ding" sounds for every little thing (yes, I know the door's open), and that very annoying shift light.
      • 8 Years Ago
      when the "retro craze" started a few years back, I was very sad to see that many cars were moving in this silly direction.

      if you get a picture of every production year of a car, then you put them side by side, you should almost see the car evolve. this was true for the ford thunderbird and vw beatle to name a few. however, when it came to the ford mustang something went terribly wrong with the evolutionary chain. It looks like the evolution of the car reversed itself and mutated back to the late 60's early 70's. to me there is no need for this to happen, in fact it makes the manufacturer look desperate and the people who buy the car look old.

      to sum up my 2 cents:

      if the result is something that looks as old as the new Mustang (especially on the interior) then yes, retro is a dirty word - retro = sh*t...

      on the other hand, if the result looks like a natural evolutionary step of the particular car, as it did for the New Beatle, then no, in this case retro = heritage = good...


      • 8 Years Ago
      I think that heritage is a good thing for automakers to have, but they shouldn't be afraid to break the mold.
      The BMW kidney grill for example is a design icon that manages to change with the times. There is no doubt that a BMW is a BMW. Porsche and Mazda are two other companies that also have strong "heritage" in their designs, but don't keep their designs from looking like retreads of former glory.
      I agree with Koba that designers should have fun with their designs. Could you imagine in the 60's if Retro was all the rage then? You would have had new versions of the 1920's Ford Model A!!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Gundar, please read AND understand before shooting your mouth off, I didnt say I liked the beatle, I said retro in this case makes sense since it "evolved" into what it is, and the mustang on the other hand "jumped back" or "deevolved" into what it is....

      I understand that it might be asking alot, but please, use your brain before posting a message, otherwise you sound just plain silly...

      • 8 Years Ago
      #8 - but the TT got cues from someone else (personally, I'd say that the RX-8 got a lot of cues from the 7). Everyone gets design ideas from some place or another. There is no true originality anymore, just refinement of good ideas. Nothing is new under the sun. :)
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