• Jan 4, 2010
No, really. If you didn't know, U2's front man and Africa activist Bono is a regular columnist at The New York Times. And he (too) has a top 10 list to kick off the new decade we now find ourselves living in. Bono first smartly apologizes for burdening our collective eyes and minds with yet another such list, before then presenting his.

Items found on his list include: a cap and trade system taxing every individual's right to pollute, protecting the intellectual rights of movie and television studios, a rock star teleportation scientist and eradicating rotavirus. All good and/or interesting stuff, no doubt, if not a little, um, predictable. Which may very well be why Bono stuck his car-related concern up on they very top of his list. That concern? "Return of the Automobile as a Sexual Object."

In short, Bono thinks modern four-door sedans are lame looking and laments the fact that minivans and SUVs are so widespread (and dull). He meditates on the decline of the sexy family car, pioneered during the U.S. auto industry's design heyday, circa 1946 to about 1971. Where are the curves, he asks, before stating, "In Ireland in the '70s, it was the E-Type Jag that made sense of puberty." A line, we should add, that we'll be stealing.

Bono then goes on to muse that the problem with modern car design might the practice of "design by committee," noting that, "rarely does majority rule produce something of beauty." We're with him so far, but then he gets a little fatuous. Essentially, Bono says that since the Obama Administration, "still holds the keys to the big automakers," they ought to be injecting some, "style fascists into the mix." Among those mentioned, Marc Newson, Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive, Frank Gehry and Jeff Koons. Luckily, we've got some insider knowledge about that last little bit. Make the jump for a slightly NSWF explanation of why this writer thinks that Bono's wrong.

[Source: The New York Times | Image: William West/AFP/Getty]

A couple of years ago, Nissan was nice enough to loan me a JDM second generation Cube. Right-hand drive and everything, the same car in fact that Autoblog's Alex Nunez reviewed. Since that particular car was so radically different than design-wise than anything else on the street – including the then not-yet-introduced current Cube – I decided to gather up some artist and architect friends of mine at a Frog Town design house and pick their brains about the oddball and oddly square Cube.

The funky little Nissan was immediately dismissed and/or embraced as a, "Hello Kitty Pinzgauer." They admired the squareness of the Cube, and liked how the entire motif was a play on squares and circles (the wheels had square holes, the dash board was decorated with squared off circles, etc). And they especially liked the hard, terrycloth seats. But really, their overriding complaint was that while the Cube featured a very high level of design, it wasn't enough. And like Bono, they suggested that American artist Jeff Koons should design a car.

Sadly, a few years have diluted my memory, and a nasty virus has rendered the audio files from that day extinct. Here's what I do remember: According to the creative types, instead of a steering wheel, Koons would use jelly dildos and the rest interior would be cast in white porcelain. Some sort of toy gun-type "BANG!" flags would serve as the headlights or maybe turn signals and the car would be painted with amber – not the color, the tree sap. But the kicker was that instead of taillights, the car would have a big beehive hanging off the back, and when you hit the brake pedal, a robotic arm would beat on the hive with a baseball bat until the bees swarmed and attacked the car behind them. No, really.

I offer this trip down memory lane not to discourage innovation and "sexy" car design, but rather to highlight the potential breakdown and error in Bono's thinking.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 35 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Unfortunately Bono has a point. A small one but a point. The problem is not the designers but the committee above them. In the auto industry it is usually the people with no design eye or training making the final design decisions. That needs to change. If they are going to pay people the big bucks, then give them the reins and let them make the decisions. This can be dangerous with the wrong guy but magnificent with the right one.

      And the practice of market research needs to change drastically. Most people don't know what car design they like until they've seen it on the road for a while and their friends or people they admire have one. THEN, all of a sudden, they like it. First reactions are a horrible way to gauge public opinion. If a car doesn't scare people the first time they see it it has a good chance of becoming boring and inconsequential within a few years. Automotive design has become stagnant because not enough people have the guts to try something different. It makes things difficult and more of a crap shoot and the companies that DO try to be different may not make the car that's right for me, but I can respect them for trying.

      I suppose it comes down the the quandary posed by trying to create something everyone will like. When you labor to do so, you usually create something no one would like.
      • 5 Years Ago
      1. What a douche.

      2. Why does anyone care what F***ing bono thinks or says?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yeah, I guess cars are getting more boring now that their designs are hampered by safety regulations.

      The E-Type could never be sold today because of its low hood line. It'd surely fail pedestrian safety standards.

      We get high cowls and beltlines with thick, indelicate roof pillars because of Euro NCAP and IIHS.

      That's a huge problem these days...safety regs are taking some of the sexiness out of our cars.

      While I appreciate his music, this is just another avenue where Bono shows just how out-of-touch he is.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Listen to Clarkson and cars will be cool again!

      Thats it thats all.

      PEACE OUT FROM THE USA
      • 5 Years Ago
      Did he say this while getting out of the ugly cross-over utillity thing?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hence his point. What else is he supposed to ride in?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I wouldn't exactly call the first gen E53 X5 "ugly". For an SUV (sorry, SAV) I'd call the design "palatable" and maybe even "nice" especially when compared to all the other bland offerings almost a decade ago when it came out.

        The occasional 4.6is and rarer 4.8is still looks appealing today. The sad reality is that SUVs are the station wagon / family car of the new millenium. If I had to pick one today, it would likely be the new turbodiesel X5, however I have my eye on the new 5 series even though it looks like an Infiniti.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Two words for anyone who thinks government-run car companies can make sexy cars: BRITISH LEYLAND.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I pretty much agree with him. In-your-face ugliness is a trend of car design that I wish would go away.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Bono, I think you're great, but really... Everybody still knows you're short. Quit with the 3 inch thick soles.

      And yes, car designs have been lacking in recent history with fewer and fewer cars that pack a visceral "punch".
      • 5 Years Ago
      Bono who?
      Maybe if he actually had an opinion on music he`d have some merit.

      Blessed is they to front a super group who sounds like crap with mediocre song writing.

      I`ve been a avid rock fan all my life. U2 just plain sucks!

      I`m sure all the guys in the band are good guys Bono too.

      They have the free pass like Toyota has had in the car world.

      Anyone remember Deep Purple for other reasons than Smoke On The Water, one of their lesser songs in compairison?

      Other Cars and other bands are far better.

      Scratch the surface and find the real gold!
      • 5 Years Ago
      He's wrong about some sedans. I saw the new E-class Mercedes the other day in person, and it was stunning.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It is getting harder and harder to stay relevant. Enter Bono as the new columnist at The New York Times. It would help if we knew why he was doing this? I love you Bono and in my eyes you can do very little wrong but this is a little wierd?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I agree. Why not ditch the typical black-panel-fest dashboard for something radical with some cool white gloss or aluminum Apple-like touches and finishes? Why must every single car basically look like every single previous car but with a different grille and light cluster? Carmakers have gotten boring and redundant. And no, the Sonata is not sexy. It's hideous as melted butter. I think the closest we've gotten in the past 10 years are the center-mounted gauge clusters which at least sparked conversation, and new likes of the VW CC and M-B CLS. And maybe the Prius. Other than that everything is exactly the same as it ever was.
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