Does it really matter what car designers say? Should it?
Car designers nowadays are expected not only to be adept at the creative aspects of their calling, but must also learn to articulate it in a manner which in theory at least, helps us, the end user, to engage with and better understand their vision. To be frank, given how some designers appear to struggle with the first component, it is not entirely a surprise to discover that so few of them are anything but inept when it comes to the latter.
It has long been known and indeed commented upon that car designers, and especially those in a leadership role, speak such unregurgitated twaddle. Given the amount of time they spend making impassioned presentations to senior management who require their hands held throughout the stylistic decision-making process, they appear to have lost their ability to filter their pronouncements once outside the secure walls of the design studio.
This observation drifted into harsher focus having absorbed the thoughts of Chief Creative Officer for Nissan, Alfonso Albaisa, who in a recent interview laid the aesthetic groundwork for the forthcoming 2019 Nissan Juke. On one hand one could state that Albaisa didn’t exactly mince his words but on the other, he did exactly that, insisting to Autocar’s Matt Saunders that the forthcoming B-segment CUV is not simply to be a reprise of the outgoing car.
“The second one couldn’t be derivative or evolutionary and still be a Juke. We’d almost have to change its name to ‘Nancy’, otherwise,” he stated. It’s possible to see what Mr. Albaisa is trying to articulate here and while one can sympathise to some extent with what was probably something of a throwaway comment, one which may or may not have been applied out of context, perhaps we ought to allow him some critical leeway.
Perhaps – had he left it there. Instead, he proffered the following in relation to what we can expect from the soon to be announced Juke-2, informing Saunders, “It’s an urban meteor with a nasty attitude.” Now this statement begs further scrutiny. Firstly, meteors, while dazzling celestial phenomena, are notoriously short-lived, which either suggests a lack of consideration on his part, or alternatively a devastating critique of the entire compact CUV genre. But that’s a side-issue. It’s the second half of this statement which troubles the most.
Because one really does have to question why Mr. Albaisa feels it necessary to use such inflammatory language. Our roads are already populated with SUV drivers who feel entitled to comport themselves as though they were at war with their fellow road users without the representatives of the car industry (who ought to know better) adding further fuel to the pyre.
Spend time reading what contemporary car designers post on social media nowadays, and the over-riding impression one gets is that they are not deep thinkers, regardless of their talents with magic marker or CAD programme. And quite frankly, this is increasingly apparent in the cars they shape.
Car designers have up to now managed to swerve responsibility for the state of affairs on our roads, taking the position that they simply reflect trends, rather than shape them – which is both slightly disingenuous and not a little faint hearted.
Mind you, given car design’s ever closer relationship with marketing, the likelihood exists that car stylists’ pronouncements are increasingly viewed as simply another necessary component of the pre-launch build-up, suggesting that perhaps, the words they choose may not entirely be their own. The irony being of course that legislators would never allow a car advertisement to employ such blatant imagery.
But Nissan are not operating in a vacuum. Since its 2010 launch, the Juke has been something of a sales phenomenon. Instrumental in the huge growth of the B-segment crossover sector, Nissan is launching its successor into a far more competitive environment, exemplified by Toyota’s hugely popular and fiercely polarising C-HR, which has given the Juke something of a commercial run for its money of late.
What we’re witnessing is perhaps something of a B-segment CUV arms race, akin to the sight of a pair of enraged five-year-olds slugging it out over a hotly contested Star Wars figurine both feel is theirs by right. An image both vaguely amusing, yet slightly alarming. But for both carmakers of course, a huge amount lies at stake.
But laying commercial imperatives to one side for a moment (and they are by no means a insignificant factor), surely car manufacturers have a social responsibility? Because it is simply not good enough for them to fling this type of imagery about, then simply wring their hands when their customers behave reprehensibly.
Hasn’t this gone far enough? By employing such hostile language, is not the car design community tacitly culpable in the weaponization of the automobile? Not only should their be a levy imposed upon auto-stylists spouting this sort of nonsense, carmakers themselves must start to recognise how toxic careless words can be in the wrong hands.
After all, not all pollution emanates from car exhausts.