Today the blogosphere is alive with comments about Nissan’s new Maxima, the one with the iffy decoration on the C-pillar.
Nissan has chosen to associate this new Maxima with the 4DSC tag, which means 4 Door Sports Car, a name which originated in 1985 with the Nissan Maxima 4DSC. What’s this got to do with evolution? It is more a case of a lack of evolution, at least in stylistic terms. It is not that the Maxima hasn’t changed but that it has had revolution not evolution. This lack of continuity from one generation to the next troubled me 25 years ago. I noticed Renault tended to follow a similar strategy.
Evolution in design is when there enough contintuity between generations for the new version to be recognisable in terms of the old version. BMW did this for decades and so did Audi. Nissan and the other Japanese manufacturers have not applied this guide to the design of their car. Nor Fiat, for the most part. Each generation is utterly different from the last.
In Europe it is often the case that what is distinctive and liked about one generation is retained on the next generation. It is assumed this will help existing customers adapt to the new car while not alienating those who own and want to keep an older one. It is also a way of retaining value. The Japanese and the Americans have not adhered to design by evolution but design by abrupt change.
Apparently nobody under 30 has heard of the 4DSC (shown above) and there is no stylistic continuity between this car and the new Maxima. The moral here is that evolution is a safer bet than revolution if you want to retain customer loyalty. In the short term, total revoltion is exciting but it also means that you have to throw away the succesful elements and re-invent them, often less successfully than before.