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October 15, 2002

Decades of Design?


Granted, I’m the former Detroiter, but we’re both old enough to at least dimly remember the days when American cars had genuine style. I was struck the other day by the progression in the following Buick ad…

Buick's Decades of Design Campaign

…that is, I was struck by the progression from powerful design to inoffensive mediocrity. How dare Buick be so insensitive as to run the top and bottom pictures in this stack together--it's offensive.

I think General Motors continues to miss a huge bet by not resuscitating elements of its much more stylish past. And I'm not referring to running ads stressing how hot their styling used to be, I'm talking about incorporating some of their traditional elements into today's cars. Let's bend a little metal here.

As I’ve watched Cadillac, in particular, try to find its way stylistically out of the wilderness over the past twenty years, I keep wondering why nobody ever has the balls to create a car that at least echoes the 'Great White shark' aura of the 1950s and 1960s Caddies.

Will Anyone Make Lithographs of the 2002 Cadillacs?

How many consumer products can access such a fully developed brand identity, an aesthetic that screams “Live Large! Be Optimistic! Kick Ass!” How many companies have this much stylistic DNA just waiting to spring forth, like the first shoots of spring hiding under the winter snows? Has GM learned nothing from the success of Harley Davidson over the past decade?

A Still Unresolved Question

Does GM really think they can out-Mercedes Mercedes? Or out-BMW BMW? I keep wanting to tell them: Come on, guys, give it a shot. You can do it! You can return to your roots!.

Or am I just kidding myself?

Somewhat nostalgic cheers,


posted by Friedrich at October 15, 2002


You're right about the boring design coming out of Detroit. It's especially puzzling when distinctive designs like the PT Cruiser and the new Beetle sell well. It's probably due to the tyranny of some combination of bean-counters, aerodynamics, and focus groups.

By the way, you folks keep posting pictures that don't show up in my browser. You really should avoid spaces in file names! Instead of "Buick Ad-thumb.jpg", it should be either "BuickAd-thumb.jpg" or "Buick%20Ad-thumb.jpg".

Posted by: Jay on October 15, 2002 07:49 PM

As a teenager when the "Great White shark" Caddies were all the rage, I agree that today's designs are really bland.

However, think of repair costs today when one of those sculpted beauties built today got wrecked! It would mean buying a new car; repairs couldn't be afforded.

Posted by: John J. Coupal on October 16, 2002 06:09 PM

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