The car, or self-propelled carriage, is a relatively recent invention. But it has inspired more people than can be accounted for, it has changed the way the world travels, it has widened the common man's horizon, it has been art and beauty and technical brilliance. But, for something which at the end of the day still has only four bloody wheels and is used mostly to get about, we have plenty of variety. Take the engines for example. You could use petrol, or diesel, or even bio fuel, distilled from leftover cooking fat or made from plants. You could put the engine in the front, in the middle, or at the back. You could even turn it through ninety degrees. You could have 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 or even 16 cylinders. And so on...
It could have 2-wheel drive, front or rear, or all wheel drive. It can have an automatic or a manual transmission, or even the arcade style flappy paddles.
You could put the steering wheel on the left, or on the right.
You could do so much with your car.
What then, seems to be the problem?
The problem is, we have too many 'big' cars. I mean who needs big saloons? Or huge SUVs with a gazillion horsepower? I have never understood the point of a Cayenne GTS, and probably never will. Don't even get me started on the X6. And before you even answer my question why BMW built it - "because they can" - and I'm sure there are plenty of idiots out there to whom this rotten piece of engineering debauchery appeals - let me say that it is worthless.
Thankfully, they cost a helluva lotta moolah, and so that helps, somewhat, in keeping their numbers low. But what about the big saloons?
Why do we have Honda Accords, Hyundai Sonatas, Toyota Camrys, Mercedes E Classes, BMW 5 Series', Audi A6s and so on? Why? 'Coz some genius thought that well, there might be people out there for whom an A4, 3 Series, Civic or Corolla was not good enough, but for whom an S Class, an A8 or Lexus LS was a bit much. Really? Don't get me wrong, you need a boot. And yes, if you're a big shot, you want a nice big and comfy saloon to be chauffeured around in.
I think the product planners - the engineers-turned-accountants - need to go back to their roots. Infinite differentiation and a bit of stickering and platform sharing will only get you thus far. And that's before I even start with the Germans and their hideous obsession with quantifying every 'new' generation of their cars in percentage terms. I quote: "The new Audi A4 has 13 % more torsional rigidity." Wow! Did you just say 13 % ?! Hmmm...no wonder the older car was such rubbish around corners. "The new engines use more precisely controlled injection and valve timing for a 7 % increase in fuel economy and 3 % lower emissions." So, if the bloody car gave me 6kpl, 7 % better fuel economy would mean 0.42 kpl more. That really goes a long way in lightening my fuel bills and saving the planet.
But wait, I have a plan. I think all car makers should sign a pledge. No more technical redundancy. Keep it good, keep it simple, and instead focus on really improving the 'Car of Tomorrow'. Think about it. The time and energy invested in retooling a new plant; the obsolescence of older dies and fixtures in a manufacturing unit; the added complexity of wiring all the add-on electricals; and the stock-pile of outdated cars which are then flogged for huge discounts, losing the company and the retailers a chunk of money anyway. In the end, it's mostly a generic look which is propagated from one 'generation' to the next.
And then we have the pointlessness of certain designs - today's crash safety requirements mean most cars come with chunky A-pillars. Do we have data to collate how many accidents happen at junctions and roundabouts because of obscured vision? Can we prove, either way, then that these A-pillars proved beneficial?
Point is, there are only two types of cars which make any sense at all - compacts, and sports cars. You don't need more than an i10 or a Spark or an Alto for the bulk of your urban existence. You'll save time, consume less fuel, help the environment, cause less crammage on the streets and not seem like a cad the next time you pull up to a traffic light in your superfluous Accord.
For the weekends when you want to 'go for a drive', pull out your sports car. Buy yourself a shagmobile. A car which you will love, lust after, and cherish. Something with silly horsepower, a bright colour, and handling which truly makes your penis tingle.