more product style cars

It has been a very long while since I posted here, just not really had the time or anything to write about. There have been many new cars announced though, at Paris and LA auto shows for example. Some really great car design has been appearing, and some really bad stuff also. By the end of the year I may write an article on the good the bad and the ugly of 2008. First though, this post continues some thoughts on product/non automotive style vehicle design. Our C3 is performing well- and there is much to like so far about a car that is easy to get in and out of, easy to see out of, and very well tailored to a womans stature. Since we bought it of course, my good friend Miles has seen his design for the new C3 Picasso released. This is very much of the practical and functional product design style, with a dash of slickness to improve on the current C3. Once again I’ve created a quick image showing the main feature lines on this design. The lines this time are much straighter- with the whole car being more of a rounded/chamfered box shape. While using a modern product style of design- with less dynamic shapes, Miles has managed to maintain an element of traditional car design by using these predominantly horizontal lines. While detail corners of these lines decelerate as explained before. the overall graphic of the shapes, and the general path for the feature lines, suggest direction and this is what saves the whole design from being too far removed from our preconceptions that cars must be dynamic. It is just the right amount of product vs auto design. Great job!

main feature lines of c3 picasso
main feature lines of c3 picasso

There are however rivals already on sale, and emerging too. Nissan have announced plans to sell the new version of their quirky domestic market Cube in the US and possibly Europe (I think), and Kia have spent a long time developing their “big idea” called the Soul. The Kia Soul is essentially just like the C3, or even the Fiat Panda 4×4. A tall and boxy supermini sized car, aimed at being functional and practical for a large range of people- while maintaining more style and individuality than most cars. The Kia Soul is certainly very similar in style to the C3 Picasso, and is a good design. Possibly Kia’s best ever, other than the Opel Astra inspired Pro-C’eed. The oddball Nissan is very unique, and this car has always embodied the pure product design philosophy that the other cars hint towards. The Nissan appears to be so devoid of any direction, or dynamic lines, or in fact any traditional automotive cues it is very alien to our western tastes.

nissan cube
nissan cube

It could almost move in any direction! We have towed caravans with more directional design than this car. The lines don’t even appear to have “tension”, meaning if you imagine them to be drawn with wire or string- they would be simply sagging wire, not wire that is pulled taught. This tension is normally an absolute must for automotive styling. There are some straight lines however- that save this from being just a saggy blob, but overall the car looks bloated and almost so heavy we can barely imagine it moving. Of course Nissan have absolute world class design teams, and produce other awesome looking cars- so it is certainly fascinating that the Cube is entirely intentional in its strangeness. It is a statement car, for non-automotive people to buy. This could be ideal timing to sell it, as the US seems to be keen with their strong anti-car, anti- gas guzzling sentiment which helped sell the also ugly VW Beetle in similar conditions in the ’70s. I’ll leave you with a gallery of the cars I’ve mentioned here. Back soon!

edit: I later remembered this awesome concept design by Fiat, from 1999, which was actually an exercise in product style design and research (and also plastics engineering). I believe the visionary Chris Bangle was head of Fiat design at the time. We studied this car during our MA at Coventry- of which Miles was a student. Funny that his production Citroen looks so similar!

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5 thoughts on “more product style cars”

  1. Interesting that you say the Nissan Cube is a statement car for Americans, because I was thinking exactly that when I saw the pic. It’s almost like a miniature version of an old camper van.

  2. It is certainly one of the most “non-car” cars ever sold. There have been cars like this for a while of course, in Japan. I think it’s actually quite large, possibly almost as big as the old VW camper?

  3. Fiat EcoBasic was designed by Roberto Giolito and Guido Bianco under the guidance of arlo Fugazza in 1999. Chris bangle had left Fiat for BMW already in 1993…. ;-)

    1. Thanks peter, great info, excuse my ignorance. Bangle was at BMW a lot longer than I or most other people realise. He didn’t only produce flame surfacing style BMW’s either of course!

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