Think all cars look more or less alike? Thank government for that, and then show a little gratitude, because that aesthetic uniformity has saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives.
The same regulations that helped automotive-related deaths on American roads drop 40 percent from their 1970 levels have also bred a certin sameness. Car design, once a venue for wild personal expression, is now a game of variations on a theme. A combination of aerodynamics requirements, fuel-economy mandates, crash-test standards and even airbags and computer sensors have conspired to create anonymity on dealer lots. Add in bottom-line pressures from corporate taskmasters and you end up with a parade of beige, mass-produced envelopes that can expand or contract to fit two to seven people. Some have roofs, others don’t. Yawn.
But what if a car designer answered to no one? Not a regulator, not an aerodynamicist, not a bean counter… nobody. Would tailfins make a comeback? How about boattail speedsters? What about Talbot-Lago’s famous Teardrop? Would the stylist go Google Car cute or custom-Jeep butch? Would we get The Homer?
The Drive caught up with Alfonso Albaisa, executive design director for Infiniti, to get his take on a pie-in-sky question.