Born This Way? – The Prius Goes Gaga

It’s all Lady Gaga’s fault, say Toyota. Well, you’d try to spread the blame too.

2016 Toyota Prius. Image via lifestylemirror
2016 Toyota Prius. Image via lifestylemirror

We’ve become accustomed to hearing Car designers come up with all manner of implausible justifications for their creations, but does anybody take this stuff seriously? To my eyes there’s now a tacit understanding between designer-spokesman and us, the auto-literate. They know we won’t believe a word, while we view their pronouncements with the contempt they habitually deserve. This is where Shunsaku Kodama comes in. As the Toyota designer responsible for the 2016 Prius, he has rather a lot of explaining to do. 

Kodama spoke to journalists at a recent press day for the forthcoming model, which was notable for his explanation for the Prius’ appearance, saying; “There were very high expectations for the Prius… as a concept, we were thinking Lady Gaga. We wanted to be more extreme in our design.” Now let’s allow this to sink in for a moment. Prius. Lady Gaga. No, me neither.

Can't read my pokerface? Lady Gaga, last week. Image via toyota-autos
Can’t read my pokerface? Lady Gaga, last week. Image via toyota-autos

It’s so ludicrously improbable it might actually be true. It’s tempting is it not, to imagine the intensely rational and serious-looking Kodama and his design team freaking out to the strains of the chart-topping songstress, perhaps getting into character with a bit of imaginative dressing up? Imagine what the mood board looked like? So is it possible that two diametrically opposed entities could creatively cross paths? Possible, yes, but highly improbable. What is incontrovertible is the fact that the new Prius is highly challenging on the eye and was clearly intended to be. It’s equally beyond doubt there are sound reasons for this that don’t involve Ms. Germanotta.

What is interesting is the fact that no reporter of any stripe felt in any way impelled to press Kodama as to how exactly the Gaga influence caused the Prius to turn out as it has. “If the design goal was to create an edgier, emotional design, they are successful,” John Manoogian, professor of automotive design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit told ANE. “It stands out from the sea of look-alike cars.” Kodama describes the new look as ‘Iconic Human-tech’, before going on to say; “Being emotional and creating excitement is something I strived for…” But doesn’t everybody?

Blimey! Image via gagadaily.
Blimey! Image via gagadaily.

Frankly, just repeating Lady Gaga several times in the hope it sticks just comes across as the shoehorn device it so clearly is. The truth is rather more prosaic. Aerodynamics were clearly the prime concern, and as we’re increasingly finding out, this is not a recipe for visual harmony. But sticking to that explanation wouldn’t have given Toyota much airtime, whereas a spurious pop-cultural reference, has. Now, if Shunsaku had given his presentation in full Fame Monster regalia I might be a little more willing to give him the benefit of his convictions. It would certainly make press days a little more interesting.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

11 thoughts on “Born This Way? – The Prius Goes Gaga”

  1. Surely, this car usurps the recently featured and discussed Rodius as one of the most bizarrely designed cars on the road. Blaming Gaga really takes the biscuit, doesn’t it? Grotesque!

  2. Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, I suspect this is one design that does not read well in photography. In three dimensions the dissonance of the surfaces could well make more sense. Or they might not. But let’s see, eh?

    I was quite a fan of the previous Prius. As sober suited as it was, it still managed to look futuristic where marks 1 and 2 looked bland. None of them look as futuristic as an FN2 Civic, mind.

  3. I’m not the best commentator on these things but, right or wrong, my impression of Lady Gaga is that she is quite a straightforward, hard working sort, possibly quite ordinary looking beneath the make-up, but someone who puts a lot of effort into appearing interesting, which is an admirable enough thing in an entertainer. As such, I understand what Toyota may be getting at here except … Lady Gaga is an individual woman who makes her own decisions and the Toyota is a car that is to be built by robots in tens of thousands. I shouldn’t need to point that out to Toyota, but …….

    I think Marks 2 and 3 were quite clever designs, distinctive yet not frightening off more conservative punters. This does look a bit fussy but, as Chris says, maybe they’ll look better in the flesh … sorry, metal.

    1. A Lady Gaga design analysis by Richard would be interesting. Perhaps he could contrast Lady Gaga with Genesis-era Peter Gabriel as SV suggests below, and we could see if they share any design dna?

  4. For those of us old (sad?) enough to remember, the photo of La Gaga reminds that there is nothing new under the sun. Peter Gabriel, then of Genesis, got there first wearing one of his wife’s old dresses and a red box on his head!

  5. The head of Toyota’s Harajuku Waku-Doki advanced studio was not amused by the appropriation of American celebrity imaging on the new Prius either

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