Let’s take a trip in our time machine. It looks like a W-114 Mercedes but when the car gets to 45 kmph and the fan speed is set to high the car slips back in time to 1990. It also gives the driver the power to
mysteriously appear in front of design directors around Europe. And it gives them the power to deliver persuasive presentations on the risks of over-styling in response to the need for product differentiation.
So, what would happen then? The W-124 begat the W-210 which yielded to the W-211 which was replaced by the W-212 (can you visualise it?) and we find ourselves with the W-213 today (I had to Google it, sorry). What would those four cars have looked liked if Mercedes had resisted the urge for strakes and mere styling?
The design presentation is the bit that would not make for good television if we were to turn this time-travel idea into a drama.
Neverthemind, let’s say we have driven back to 1990 and are telling Bruno Sacco and his imminent successors to not depart from the path of careful product planning. This raises some big questions.
This isn’t about Mercedes by the way. We can include BMW and Audi in this consideration along with any of the car brands that have at times simply thrown styling features at clay models in a darkened studio. I ask this because I have doubts (just doubts) that the alternative path was not really possible.
Behind this moment of self-doubt is a lingering similar worry I have that if I was asked to design a building that met my criteria it would not look all that distinguished or, simply put, not be very good at all. I think people would not notice the building. Much the same worry applies to my design-philosophy. It’s not only me who is not very impressed with much of the car design we see, I should note. So the question is for me as much as for you.
So, the tough question is this: what would the last 25 years of car design have looked like if I’d been able to persuade designers not to give in to the pressure to over-style, to resist bombast? Would it have led to designs that anyone would have particularly liked? (Does anyone much like the main-stream of car design anyway?)
Which designs would have happened anyway and which ones would not have happened? Where would car design be if I had driven back to 1990 and warned them about life in 2018?