Man, American cars. They're so uncool and lame and stuff, am I right? They don't have good designs or performance like sweet sexy expensive cars from Europe. Europe is a place where people are more sophisticated and so their cars must be better, obviously.
If you really couldn't tell, that was sarcasm. I'm of the opinion that when they put their minds to it, the U.S. brands can make cars as good as or better than anyone else in the world. But there still seems to be a ton of bias against American cars, and that's kind of unfortunate.
Take Rolls-Royce design director Giles Taylor, who was asked by a Forbes reporter at the New York Auto Show why the U.S. doesn't have competitive designs.
Frankly, I take umbrage at the premise of this reporter's question. She asks Taylor this:
"I have seen very few cars in recent decades come from the United States that are competitive on design with cars from Europe and Asia. Why do you think that is? Is it lack of money? Is it lack of brain power? Basically I’m asking why can’t the United States make cars that look cool?"
Whoa, whoa, whoa. There are "very few" American cars that look cool in "recent decades?" Car design is always a subjective thing, but what the hell? I can think of a ton of great-looking American cars as of late, like 2014 CTS and the rest of the "art and science" Cadillacs, the new Camaro and Mustang, the Charger and Challenger, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the SRT Viper.
And how far back does "recent decades" go? Are we talking about the 50s, 60s and (at least part of) the 70s too? You'll lose that argument so fast it will make your head spin.
I don't care for the question. Here's Taylor's answer:
I know what you’re saying. I think there’s a pedigree and a heritage of European design which goes back to not only Rolls-Royce and Bentley but let’s say Jaguar as well where there was a fusion of engineering: The first companies were generally small, so the actual teams were smaller, and what you’ll find is that the design team worked closely with the engineering team to get proportions–A-pillar to front wheel–and the overall integrity of the proportions and the stance of the car was a more naturally attractive proposition.
He says the Euro brands like Rolls, Jag and Bentley have more of a "heritage" to their design because they started out smaller. I hate to break it to you, friend, but American cars have plenty of "heritage" too, and all three of those brands you mentioned — including Aston Martin as well — have had designs that are derivative at best or total duds at worst.
By the way, some of those brands have been cranking out cars that look pretty much the same for a while now. Jaguar is finally starting to branch out a bit with cars like the F-Type and the new XJ.
Taylor also says that part of the reason American designs don't hold up is because U.S. car companies are volume builders and thus have to make too many compromises.
If I go to some of the American brands, you may find that there’s some models for cool design but ultimately the proportions are awkward because they base it off a Mazda platform because Ford owns Mazda. Or in terms of actually giving them bang for the buck globally they’re going to put [the new design on existing platforms] at Mercury, Lincoln, Ford or even in the past Jaguar. And I spent 14 years at Jaguar suffering from that.
Since he's a veteran of Jaguar I don't doubt Taylor knows what he's talking about. That Ford didn't put much money and R&D into Jag and Land Rover is a criticism I have heard before. But European brands are volume-builders too; just look at Volkswagen. It's not like everything they design looks like it was handed down from God himself.
This isn't to say that American designs are better than European ones or vice versa. I just don't think it's fair to make such a blanket statement.
What do you think of his remarks? Do the Europeans always do design better or does America hold its own?
Hat tip to Creative Accidents!