Could there be anything wrong with trying to design cars that can avoid an automotive face-lift?
When Simon came up with this topic we all immediately thought of the classic facelift disasters. Then there were the handful of acknowledged facelift successes; these have been touched upon by DTW at various points over the month. We are are also aware that some firms make a routine of “mid-cycle refreshes” as they are termed by those in the know. And this is probably to be deplored since facelifting a car means either a) the first attempt was not good enough or b) the company indulging in planned obsolescence. To which we can add c) the product actually is long-in the-tooth and it really needs some very obvious re-styling to distract from that fact.
Some of us (i.e. me mostly) look back to the good old days when BMW and Mercedes never facelifted their cars. But is there anyone who isn´t facelifting their cars now? It dawned on me that it might be Toyota. But was that a “Good Thing”? And the second part of this rumination is this: if they did facelift their cars could you tell? The photo above shows the 2004 Toyota Avensis.
I would like to show each of the model years for this car (I missed one). Making this hard to was that the Avensis shell is sold in a variety of markets. So what I might think is a facelift might just be the New Zealand version. Or it could be the version sold at one Japanese Toyota dealer chain but in not sold in another Toyota dealer chain at the same time. Japanese cars are hard to document for this reason. The way I found to reduce the likelihood of this was that I picked
images from http://www.mobíle.de, the car sales website. I found out that between 2004 and 2009, the Avensis changed so imperceptibly that I didn´t notice until I was almost ready to publish this (about forty minutes into the task). I had to look at these photos under controlled, scientific conditions to determine this and even then I nearly got it wrong. The whole front bumper and grille differ in Series 1 (2004) and Series 2 cars (2007).
Simon´s point about facelifts has made me think about the fact that I can´t think of any glaring examples of Toyota doing facelifts. Maybe they have done. A cursory Google can show if this is the case generally. My point here is that I have no impression of what constitutes the authentic essence of Toyota Avensis. Thus I could not tell without research if the later cars were the same or slightly different from the first ones that I know of. What I do have is the capacity to passively recognise an Avensis as Mk1 or
Mk2 but if you were to put the California-market front bumper on it, I wouldn´t spot the change. In marked contrast, show me a BMW 5-series (E-39) I would show you a car that wasn´t even capable of being face-lifted without upsetting its character. Now that I am wandering down this path, I could add Honda and Nissan to this select pool of automakers who can facelift without it being noticed (by me, anyway). None of these three firms make
vehicles that adhere to any kind of a platonic idea of how the brand should look. If the world wanted Toyotas to be very, very bloated and to have ripples running transversely across the roof then Toyota would provide that next year. The customer would have spoken. Honda would do the same but with a very precise gear-change, I suppose. And Nissan would offer it in hatchback form, mildly jacked up. The three firms fail the facelift test. That test is this: does the firm offer designs distinct enough to make face-lifting difficult or noticeable? I believe that in recent times, Mercedes have been giving their cars mid-cycle refreshes. And the worrying thing is that I haven´t noticed. Which means, that Mercedes is now the European Toyota. It fails the facelift test. To answer the three questions above. One, Toyota does facelift their cars (I think). Two, it might not be a Good Thing if it means designing cars that are too bland to offend. And three when they do facelift their cars the change is imperceptible as there is no inherent Toyota-ness so you can´t tell.