It’s a typical Audi, graced by a purity of design which somehow destroys any chances of passionate engagement**. Guten Tag, Herr Hundert.
The Audi 100 affirmed its maker’s commitment to design which tightly fused the requirements of engineering and the stringencies of high aesthetic standards. Despite all that focused effort expended on visual refinement, nobody loves these cars, do they? You can say the same about Renault’s equally well-considered 25 of 1983. The 1982 Opel Rekord got caught in the middle of the aero-rationalist phase and so shows traces of its 1977 sharp edges intermixed with a smoother frontal aspect. Unloved also. We are forced to consider Dieter Rams’ words of wisdom again. The Audi 100 checks all the boxes.
Rams’ principles should lead to a product which not only looks good and works well but which also endures. In one way this is true because it is hard to take issue with the individual, local results of Audi’s design decisions.
Study the photos and you will not see much demanding revision. Fashion’s whims more than function’s demands mean the car looks 1982. If you were to take the quantitative requirements of 2019 and combine them with the aesthetic principles of the 100 you’d end up with an excellent car (but not, alas, a 2019 Audi A6).
So, yes, the Audi 100 is enduring in a Platonic way. It’s not enduring in a not-being-scrapped way though. First, the anecdotal evidence points towards rarity. I nearly fell out of my shoes when I saw this example on a recent trip to central Dublin, Ireland.
Second, a look at a car sales website such as Mobile.de shows about 130 examples for sale. If I search for 5ers from from the same period I find 160 for sale. The two figures reside in the same order of magnitude but isn’t it peculiar the car designed to endure is the more scarce?
In the spirit of JS Mill, I need to mention the possibility that Audi 100 owners might be keeping their cars rather than selling them. So, we must look to the price assigned by the market. If people really like them they should cost more. Do they? The 1985 models with the 2.2 litre engine and average odo figure cost around €2000. Looking at the 5er I notice that the price rises in accordance with the likelihood it’s a 1981-1988 E28 (which is less innovative than the 100). And the prices (estimated by eyeball, sorry) seem much higher than the 100s generally.
If you start on page 1 of the searches, from lower to higher, the prices for the E28 rise faster than the C3 100 do. That more or less irons out all the differences in mileage and whatnot, I would say.
So, there are fewer Audi 100s on sale than comparable 5ers. The Audi 100 tends to cost less than the 5er. The other aero-ulm car of the day, the R25, is so scarce that there is just one for sale on mobile.de, for the price of a mediocre 5 or 100 (and the example in question is a good one).
Well, as Oscar Wilde says, cynicism is to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. We must overlook the market’s rejection of the 100’s design principles, mustn’t we? How exactly do we rationalise the fact that Dieter Rams’ rationalism does not win over the collective wisdom of the car buying public?
** I happen to like it a lot, by the way. The factors explaining the BMW 5’s relative popularity may have nothing at all to do with the appearance (probably a FWD/RWD thing). That still should depress we disciples of design because it means design matters less than we would like it to.
28 thoughts on “Your Gaze Was Like A Solstice Beam Reaching My Darkened Heart”
I had a 1986 5000 Turbo Quattro almost identical to the above, down to the interior colour with the euro lights added.
It was a great car for Ottawa winters, awd, galvanized bodies didn’t rust, and the turbo engine and awd drivetrain were unbreakable. Unfortunately the rest of the car was not so robust, especially the electrical system.
Most of those cars in north america were fwd automatics. The mechanics told me that the automatics were weak, especially with the turbo engines, not rebuildable, and expensive to replace. So transmission failure=scrap in many cases.
Which explains the high mortality rate, at least on this side of the pond.
That´s one factor. Your experience matches my impression of N American owners general one. They find European cars frail. That is such a pity.
Richard, I think the electrics and auto trans on the early 5000s were fragile, it wasn’t just buyer perception. Also, the turbos could have injector fuel leaks from heat soak after the engine was turned off. Audi actually did a recall where they fitted a blower fan that blew on the injectors when underhood temps became excessive.
I think a lot of the problems were due to heat. Ottawa is hot in the summer, actually the whole of North America and most of Canada is hot in the summer. It’s not just the US South.
I suspect that there were some things that Audi missed when they did their hot weather testing. Most of it was ok. The cars didn’t over heat and the AC on the 5000s worked really well (which is more than the feeble AC in the E28 could manage). But there seemed to be some issues with longer term heat exposure which unfortunately turned up after a couple of years of hot summer operation.
I had an ’85 5000 turbo myself – for 7 months. My best friend bought it new and got fed up with it, sold it off cheap to me in early 1988 and I flogged on my ’82 Audi Coupe to another friend. He bought a new Mercedes 300E whose HVAC promptly dropped its guts – but only once, let’s be fair …
The ’85 Audi turbo’s high pressure hydraulic system burst at two months old in July while we were on a road trip from Halifax NS. In Detroit on a Saturday afternoon. Embarrassing – we were at the US Nationals racing 1/8 scale model remote-control car championships. AWD, fully independent suspension little brutes that went like hell! And with a dead Audi turbo we rather lost focus that day. I rigged up a bad seal over the burst pipe since we had a hell of a pile of tools, and he got some high pressure hydraulic oil from the auto parts store across the mall parking lot the Nationals were being held at. The local Audi dealer was not open. We limped to the nearest cheap motel as the oil pumped out and waited for Monday – our women were not amused.
Three years later when I got rid of it for an ’88 4000 quattro, the rear bumper was dented on the way to the dealer when the engine performed its ritual hiccup from rest due to gummed up intake valves. The car behind was expecting me to move, but it almost stalled instead. Not for nothing were Audi dealers the first to wield walnut shell valve-cleaning machinery. They came in handy for VW’s direct injection foobah engines 15 years later.
I took apart my previous Coupe’s power window switches to clean them several times. The fuse box was dreadful with fuses like those used back in 1915. You needed to re-tension the tangs the fuses fitted in, or, what’s that smell? Two Coupes burnt to the ground around these parts from high resistance fuse box connections that overheated. Not mine!
The “engineering” of the electrics was execrable compared to American or Japanese efforts.
I know I’ve beaten the drums about poor European car engineering details on DTW for three years or more to deaf ears. You folks just refuse to believe it, but Mr Martin confirms it. When I changed to Subaru from Audi, my life changed significantly for the better. Not as “solid” to drive, but not changing with the passage of time either. Parts don’t fail, my Legacy turbo is almost twelve and still goes like stink and uses no oil. Never replaced a lightbulb and just one new battery. A new BMW 330i is not a credible replacement.
Just the way it is.
The C3 Audi 100 came before Audi had many sporting prentensions and this is reflected in its unagressive, ‘relaxed’ design. The BMW, on the other hand, had an image of being a (more upmarket) sporting saloon. I would guess that a lot of the E28s are bought and then modified – hence the demand. If you google for pictures of modified versions of each, the BMW wins (if that’s the right word) hands down.
Is it somewhat paradoxical that, in general, American cars feel less substantial than European ones, especially the premium brands? I have driven quite a number over the years and everything from the way the doors and boot lid close to the action of the switchgear feels somehow less solid and finely engineered. Despite this impression, they still seem to be rather more robust in daily use than their European equivalents. It’s amazing how many really ratty looking old cars and (especially) pick-ups you see faithfully serving their owners when you drive through rural America.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in this about the difference between perceived and real quality? Maybe the European makers need to spend less time on damped grab handles and slush mouldings, and more on the robustness of the underlying mechanicals?
Just a thought.
Are we Europeans more wrapped up in the ‘car as a statement of who I am’ more than the American ‘car is a domestic appliance’ ethos?
I genuinely don’t know, but certainly in the UK the marketing of cars is all about perception and features. Boring old stuff such as long term reliability and running costs doesn’t feature at all. With finance and rental deals driving the new car market I would suggest that the first owner of a vehicle probably cares less about the long term prospects of that vehicle than ever before.
How does this compare with North America – does anyone here know?
For the longevity of pickups, I think it comes down to an inherently more durable design – body on frame, cast iron engines, rear wheel drive, solid rear axle, leaf springs. That’s how commercial vehicles and trucks are built.
I always thought that the european cars’ major weakness was electrical issues. For example, I have a W124 Mercedes, my mother has a mid 90s Volvo, my Audi 5000, all those cars required repeated cleaning/deoxidation of window switches and resoldering of numerous solder joints to keep them operating.
By contrast, I have had several several north american tanks from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and all the numerous interior electrical doodads worked without attention until the day they were sold or went to the junkyard.
Adrian, I have lived in both the UK and Canada and brand status, brand perception, vehicle specification, “what the car says about the owner” are just much bigger things in the UK than in North America.
In the UK it is much harder to get people to pay more for an expensive spec vehicle for an economy brand. The argument often is, “for that money you could have had a BMW, Audi or Merc”.
That’s not the issue here in NA, where you have millions of pickups and SUVs which are very expensively optioned, and actually cost a lot more than a C class or even E class Mercedes.
But people here mostly don’t care. They buy what they want, regardless of brand status.
As a reminder, Dieter’s 10 commands:
1. Good design is innovative
2. Good design makes a product useful
3. Good design is aesthetic
4. Good design makes a product understandable
5. Good design is unobtrusive
6. Good design is honest
7. Good design is long lasting
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
9. Good design is environmentally friendly
10. Good design is as little design as possible
Maybe there is an 11th principle missing: How about “Good design has character.”
That’s what to me the Audi 100 has much less off than the BMWs and Mercedes of that time. (Or maybe just a less ‘likeable” character, or less “personality”? – even more subjective)
Character has some place in the 3rd place and is excluded from 5th place. The Audi is unobtrusive. That said, are any of the 5s it competed against much more characterful.
Your general point makes it apparent that Rams principles are not able to accomodate idiosyncracy and poetry. Design management is about eliminating mistakes. I am adopting Eno´s oblique strategies to counter the tendency for design management theory to neglect the art of design (the surplus of meaning to refer to Mads Nygaard Folkemann).
Or put differently: following the rules may be a necessary but not a sufficient precondition for achieving good design in a Rams way. There cannot be a definitive rule book for the arts. So maybe the 11th principle is: “Even if you follow these 10 principles, there is no guarantee for good design”.
For me “character” is a good way of distinguishing between a rule book approach (as very well exemplified with the Audi Herr 100, and one that somehow manages to resonate with the viewer (or listener, or consumer in any other kind of way) in a deeper way.
I think the BMW 5 series of the time have loads of character. That angular grille, the (seemingly) larger window areas, the Hofmeister Knick. There is lightness, there is finesse, there is a certain tone. Is that by design or by association with preconceived ideas about a BMW 5 series? Probably a bit of both.
How about the Alfa Romeo 164 (which we have pondered before). It´s quite straightforward yet is distinctive.
The E28 seems to fit the bill in many ways too. It isn´t very excessive, it´s neatly tailored, crisp. And also individual.
The Audi 100 is much less of a “character”, if anything being have the character of lacking much characater. It´s in relation to modern cars it has more dignity and charm.
The Type 44/C3 was every Studienrat’s wet dream and a typical procut from the era when Audi didn’t know what they wanted to belong to and where to go with their brand.
The absurdly short wheelbase in relation to the large overhangs and the narrow track made the car look like a whale on a wheelbarrow.
Glitches of questionable taste like oversized (US-version derived) rear light units of the better equipment levels didn’t particularly help in making this car a creditable E28 competitor.
Just open the bonnets of an E28 and a C3 and compare what you see. It’s the Audi that looks like the result of an explosion in a spare parts box and which has a valve cover covered in rust after a couple of years. That’s a marked contrast to the attractive layout of the BMW with aluminium valve cover and a much cleaner general look.
As a whole the C3 was a half baked attempt of a manufacturer with not enough money, culminating in the 200 versions with even more US-derived details and the silly V8.
… procut = product
Whale on a wheelbarrow…
Unkind, but I can see what you mean. Checking, I find that the four 100 generations had almost exactly the same c.2675mm wheelbase, but grew in length by nearly 500mm.
The C3 seemed to define Audi as a “thinking persons car”, in the manner of Saab and Citroën, rather than a direct competitor for Mercedes Benz and BMW. For VAG, that made sense, as they were trying to establish a premium brand on a veritable shoestring, and would have benchmarked poorly in the areas where their German rivals excelled.
And Eóin, thanks for reminding me of the pneumatic central locking. It sucked. Or rather it didn’t…
Pneumatic central locking is a German trait since Mercedes introduced it in the Sixties. It’s less noisy than a solenoid operated system and sounds more expensive.
During the lifetime of the C3 the car market in its home country went through a significant change.
Up to then company cars were largely unknown in Germany and only travelling sales people had them in form of Passat Variants if they needed the space or Opel Rekord/Vectra and the occasional Audi B3 if a saloon was sufficient. Company cars became popular on a large scale with the rise of the consultancy businesses in IT or otherwise in the late Eighties/early Nineties and a BMW was the obvious choice for this customer base.
At least in their home country Audis were thinking man’s cars only when thinking man meant geography teachers. Audis at that time were old men’s cars with a decidedly bourgeois customer base and had only marginally better image than Opel.
With the C3/Type44 they missed a big chance
Only when they finally managed to develop the engines they should have offered from the start (naturally aspirated V6 instead of burbo fives) and ditched their cheesy decoration (German press called the C3 200’s rear lights ‘Fürst Pückler style’) did they start to make an impact in the emerging company market. The B5 was the first Audi that sold large numbers via corporate lease contracts.
I had three in succession; the first, a saloon, worked perfectly but was swapped for an Avant version with the arrival of the second child. This too was great for several years, but then the woodruff key on the end of the crank went causing damage to the crank nose that was beyond economic repair. Another followed; again it worked fine for a while, but the autobox broke when the radiator coolant leaked into the oil-cooler element for the gearbox. So I am personally responsible for scrapping two of the things, both of which should have had many more years of service in them. The latter case annoyed me so much, being essentially the result of a compromised design that guarantees a catastrophic failure in the event of the slightest leak, that I have never bought another Audi. A shame, as otherwise they were great, but always a product that appealed rather to the brain more than the heart, and thus not easy to forgive when they failed; the polar opposite of various XJs I have owned, then, where a wider tolerance of fallibility is somehow built in to the calculation, despite the fact that in practice it turns out to be rarely required.
One of the perennial Audi bugbears of this and previous eras was the eye-watering cost of spares. When components failed – and they inevitably did after a few years, the cost of repairing the car, especially once it was a few years old, became prohibitive. A UK relative had an A-reg C3 100 CD which was a well-looked after ex-company car. Several years into ownership the air-flow sensor (I think) failed and the cost of replacement entailed it being offloaded for a pittance.
These were very pleasant motor cars to drive. Quiet, long-legged and comfortable. The long wheelbase ensured a spacious cabin. Only the heating and ventilation left a little to be desired. They did suffer a bit of an image problem and they lost their value rather quickly, both matters which Ingolstadt remedied in the interim.
Another issue with this era of Audi was the central locking, which used a vacuum system I seem to recall. Not the most reliable…
High cost of spares was my experience as well. For example, the automatic climate control came from GM. Audi price for the control box was $1000 CDN. Cadillac equivalent was ~$200, but, unfortunately the connectors were different. I eventually revived the bad solder joints on the Audi box myself.
I also needed a turbo wastegate diaphragm. Audi didn’t stock that separately and would only sell me an entirely new wastegate at $2000. I got one from a scrapyard for ~1/10 the cost, and eventually the aftermarket started producing diaphragms out of a more temperature resistant rubber (heat issues again).
The problem is, when your ownership group is reduced to tinkerers and guys running around junkyards, the scrap rate of your cars is going to be very high.
And that’s exactly what happened.
All this commentary reminds me what a dope I was buying or leasing five Audis in a row. Good thing I had well-paying jobs!
One of the scale model racers in our club was an independent mechanic who made his mark repairing Jag XK engines, the V12 nightmares, and gently explaining to customers why BMW 6 cylinder heads were rubbish at 70,000 miles. They may not have rusted like an Audi valve cover, not that mine did that I recall, but so what when they warped instead and wore out valve guides. Never was a BMW fan after watching the travails of my friends. Meanwhile Hondas ran flawlessly until the body failed its annual official test or the engine fell out, whichever came first. Toyotas were rusty fender-flappers but never gave up until they failed our MOT equivalent. Nissans and Mazdas were not as good all round, but acceptable. In the vast middle ground US vehicles were average, almost by definition.
Renaults, Peugeots, Fiats, Rovers, Alfas, Rootes were garbage from the start. UK Fords were fine – too fine because they showed up the local stuff. Ford put a stop to that lark in the early 1970s by ending imports.
American mechanical detail engineering used to be of the door latch you could buy from an ironmonger variety. Crude but lasted forever. Like GM power door locks, power window switches, door hinges. Seats had no shape, dampers were crude, but the actual oily bits were very finely made in general. They have excellent production machinery. What might be seen as crude was thoroughly examined as my old GM Engineering quarterly magazines showed. Electrical design was thoroughly competent. Chrysler was always at the bottom in all but engines and transmissions, drove Mercedes nuts and made a fine fit with Fiat, which now cannot be given away here any more. Dreadful stuff.
Boil it all down, and I agree with the commenters who opine it’s the climate difference from Europe to North America that affected durability. Volvos worked until the 850 mechanical nightmares and have been marginal since. The Germans had well-made bodywork but iffy electrics and occasional dud engines like early TFSi, but the French, British and Italians made relentlessly poor cheap stuff and were obdurately oblivious to it. Then Hyundai arrived and after a few false starts, proved that making mechanically reliable vehicles was not a black art. You have to keep your mind in gear and observe results and what works in different markets – no sitting around philosophizing and hoping for the best.
I do think ‘whale on a wheelbarrow’ is a tad harsh. I do think that this 100 gave Audi the aura of being a intellectual’s/ technocrat’s choice. This was then reinforced by the B3 Audi 80/ 90. My step-father had an 80 and it had many elements of loveliness – the exterior styling, the interior styling, the build quality and the whisper-quiet high speed cruising ability thanks to a stupidly high 5th gear. The suspension was poorly set up, though, with poor body control such that the car wallowed and cork-screwed. The boot was oddly shaped and quite small, but it seemed like an OK compromise for a car that looked like that at the time.
I was passed by a new A6 yesterday and it could have brought me to tears if I had not given up sentimentality for 2019 – for a company that used to glory in the shear absence of clutter and noise in its design, Audis are now more vocal than Alfas of the early 80’s. If you look at the rear elevation of the new A6 you need a calculator to add up the number of horizontal feature-lines, it really is a shame. Add the over-detailed rear lamps, and the effect is quite shocking.
“It will now remain to see, in the next 2-3 years, who’ll succeed in setting the right balance between playing it safer (and costlier) with a relatively distinct continent-/cluster- product portfolios, or risking switching to SUV-prevalent (and most probably global-reaching) portfolios”
In the french car industry I think PSA and Renault haVe these 2 conflicting views: Since 2014 and Tavares’s start as CEO the group has pledged to end continent-specific models and said many times that they’ll only be an X number of silhouettes (their word) for each brand and these will have to be sold globally. I think for Ciroen the number of silouhette was said to be 8 which led some people to try and see which models will survive and which will be killed off.
Still, it seems that some models might be continent specific like that new Peugeot Pick-up (its actual name) aimed at Africa and based on a chinese pick-up, itself based on an old Nissan if I recall correctly.
On the other hand Renault plays it differently with for example the Renault Arkana for Russia, Kwid for india,etc…even a specific Kaptur (with a ‘K’) for Russia.
This comments’ thread is fascinating in many aspects,
as is the 44/C3 design’s strange temporal resistance.
The thread, for me, sheds so much light on the fact that the awareness and appreciation of certain car brands/series-models is vastly dependant on societal nuances in the ensuing natural (and very hard
to predict) “reputation buildup” patterns – and geographic/climate aspects.
Almost in each and every comment above, a certain argumented element was noticably present that inevitably leads to reinforcing
To illustrate: it will never be possible to fully ‘stomach’ the scale of the scope of “how” is a certain brand (or a group of ‘premium-perceived’ brands, eg.nowadays Audi, BMW & MB) experienced, it’s just so very dependant on the continent, country, local automotive culture & vehicular mythology, etc.
In the last decade, as the industry was finally forced to tend towards an (ideal scenario…) “One-___” approach – a globally unified portfolio for cost/complexity reasons, it became crucially important to conceive, design, engineer and market cars that should appeal to “everybody out there across 3-4 or even 5 continents”… (I believe it was Ford that started it first as a genuinely, radically implemented ‘Global portfolio’ concept). In hindsight, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these cars – designed in such an “overarching appeal” manner –
would never really be 100% appealing to any of those particular markets/countries (all things to all people…).
This approach (as it was recently proven in the case of Ford announcing a discontinuation of their conventionally-sized cars), was, from this point in time, perhaps not the proper thing to do, exactly due to the reasons of vast sociological complexity of various markets/geographies out there.
Now, with the global market ’embrace’ of the SUVs, it is as if the horizon ejects a “second chance” for such a simplified, global-reach product portfolios. Honestly, just how different two SUVs can be for a SUV-minded buyer in US, and a SUV-minded buyer in Poland? Globalization is, culturally speaking, taking place already, in spite of many things.
It will now remain to see, in the next 2-3 years, who’ll succeed in setting the right balance between playing it safer (and costlier) with a relatively distinct continent-/cluster- product portfolios, or risking switching to SUV-prevalent (and most probably global-reaching) portfolios, as the latest market trends adamantly point to.
As for the 44/C3 that triggered this thread, I find it admirable that, in spite of its (almost mathematically comic) overhangs, it still transpires as an irrevocably serious, competent and consistent design. Maybe it owes to the stern, and carefully proportioned DLO, that somehow eases the humourless persistence of its beltline and general scarcity of side-panel curvatures. I think only the somewhat too aggressive front end (grille/headlight height?) reveals its real age – the rest can competently pass the 2019 test of time, which is utterly fascinating
If it wasn’t for some overly complex fuel injection systems on their engines (as said above, very costly as components to replace), and the apparent electrical frailty, they would be surely a far less rare sight in the current European Strassenbild – especially with a view to their stubborn, extreme corrosion resistance, which, paradoxically, didn’t have the chance to truly display its long-term merits to the world.
One thing is certain – the styling & build ruggedness of the 44/C3 100 created that “sweet spot” that finally managed to turn Audi again
into a fully-fledged Made-in-Germany premium brand in the late 80s/90s.
If it wasn’t for this very model, they would probably be almost annihilated as a brand by the late 80s, which would be a total shame.
Regardless of what Audi has become nowadays in pure styling/aesthetic terms, to me it is one of the very few truly iconic automotive brands out there, and their/VAG’s persistence ultimately led to the immense success & appreciation they receive nowadays.
In the said chain of events that led thereto, I think that
the Audi 100 C3 played, arguably, a crucial role.
I think the globalized “world car/suv” idea is nonsense based on disparities in motor fuel prices alone.
Right now, petrol prices in the USA Midwest are ~40 pence per liter.
You cannot design a “world car” where major markets have a 3-fold difference in fuel prices.
And even if you equalize some of these differences. Imagine the UK vehicle market if petrol prices were 1/3 of current levels, there was no VAT, no tax penalties for CO2 emissions, lower income taxes and higher incomes.
Would the vehicle market look like the USA ?
Do the vehicle fleets of wealthy suburbs like Hampstead and Highland Park Dallas look the same ?
I forgot to reply to Al and Angel has reminded me. Both make a good point and it´s a bit of a “why didn´t I think of that moment”. Some vehicles are more viable candidates for the world car. The Golf and 3-Series seem likely. I also think that even if European cars are badly made, unreliable, fragile and costly to repair, they are suitable for more global markets than some Japanese and American cars. There might be some American and Japanese equivalents but I don´t know them so I am prepared to be corrected.
For many companies, a world car is a bridge too far; maybe a “most of the world car” would be a better bet. Why compromise a car sold in 78 countries for the sake of an extra mid-size 12 countries? Why make your car compromised for all the world just so as to have a go selling in the Asia/Australia market? And so on. Perhaps that has been the case for a few too many cars whose core markets have suffered. The poor old Mondeo is one, a European car sized American.
A “most of the world car” or “some of the world car” is a much less appetising idea for marketing people and some engineers like the idea as a challenge. Those aren´t good enough reasons.
As I assume many of us here, I have always been an avid observer of the car-scape of any new country I travel to. Cars are a very complex and rich mirror of many of a particular society’s character traits. Five randomly selected cars from any country would probably be enough to make a very educated guess about which country it was and what cultural, geographical and socio-economic realities have produced such a selection of cars. (How about a new DTW quiz format?)
Globalization has certainly already very adversely affected this global automotive diversity, which for example can be observed in the gradual but fast proceeding death of local taxi traditions. The Mercedes E-Classes of Germany, Ford Crown Victorias of the USA and Toyota Comforts of Japan are one by one being replaced by Toyota Prius Pluses. Economically rational as it may be, culturally I find it lamentable.
For the (urban) taxi market the requirements are very similar around the world and it is easy to see how a Toyota Prius fulfills them better than the competition. But can the same be true for the private car market? For the reasons outlined above (geographic, cultural and all the other conditions will always remain different in different countries, globalization or not), I believe (and hope) the global car market will remain diverse. A Renault-Nissan-Skoda Qashqai-Captur-Karoq may be one-size-fits-many, but it will never be one-size-fits-all.
I think a view in the automotive history book will prove: the true icons were (and will have been) developed with less regard to market research than with the belief that a certain vision will succeed in a specific market segment – and in the best of these cases, other people, in other countries happened to like them too. (Nobody could have predicted or intended the Santana would one day be so successful in China, for example.)
Following on Max’s idea of five representative vehicles per market:
Top 5 in USA:
(Canada has Civic instead of Rogue).
Actually, (looking at 2017 year end sales) there is not a single vehicle in the top 10 in all 3 markets.
In fact there does not appear to be single shared platform. (Wikipedia claims Sylphy Rogue/ Qashqai.)