Today’s Cars All Look the Same: Boring
I was strolling along the streets of Venice, trying to figure out how many years it’ll take before it’s filled with Baby Gap and Gucci chain stores, when something caught my eye on the road. It was a bright, orange sports car with a matte finish. It zoomed by me and the glut of boutique shoe stores, the only fluorescent thing on the whole boulevard. This car was like a stick of dynamite in a pristine meadow. An orange car? Insanity!
Yeah. Insanity. That car is insanity. Wait … when did we lower the bar that much for “insane” cars?
The orange car stuck out to me for obvious reasons – it was a splash of color, it was a sports car, the matte finish — not that big of a mystery. It would probably stick out in any era. The thing looked like a damn toy (as much as I loved its impact, I would drive that car under threat of death, only). It got me thinking about the bulk of cars today, and I realized … they all sort of look the same.
What color is your car? Black? Red? Silver? White? Maybe you’re one of the weird ones with blue or green? There’s pretty much only six colors. If you take a look at a parking lot today, it’s a sea of six colors. A rainbow of mediocrity. An orgy of bland.
It’s this strange homogenization that’s been occurring for years now. Hyundai. Acura. Honda. Toyota. Ford. Chevy. Can you really tell the difference between these cars? Even the upscale cars all look the same now – Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, Infiniti – besides slight changes in headlights, they’re carbon copies.
The reason that the PT Cruiser and those god-awful box-shaped Cube cars sell at all are because they’re different. They shake up the road a little bit because frankly, from an appearance standpoint, cars in this country have never looked more boring.
It didn’t always used to be this way. Once, in a time not long ago, color ruled. Cars had character, and I don’t just the mean the ritzy brands. Cars in the 1950’s and 60’s, from the sporty coupes to the boat-like Buicks, had style.
They had life and color and they made the road an entertaining kaleidoscope of everyday vehicles. You saw orange, baby blue, white stripes, brightly colored interiors, and sometimes the Fonz. It was just a better time for cars.
Science may be the culprit — those hefty Cadillacs may have been aesthetic beauties, but they’d go 0-60 in … hey let’s go get coffee and come back when it’s done. Smartly designed, sleek cars are what we have now. Everything has been configured precisely so that each car is as aerodynamic as the next (sedans, at least). Which is all fine and good, except that it’s incredibly boring.
Maybe it isn’t just science though. After the neon orange, toy car was out of sight, I kept walking along the increasingly gentrified street. I noticed more and more that the storefronts all looked the same. In fact, all of these wealthy, young West Siders looked the same, too.
The stores that made less money and the people that maybe had too much of an “edge” have been replaced by corporate shills. It’s capitalism, really. The rich wannabe-artsy trust fund kids and the high-end chain boutique that’s probably owned by Unilever are everything they pretend they’re not — bland, corporate porridge.
That’s what happened to our cars — corporations got so big and efficient and productive and focused on marketing the product instead of the product itself, that every car is a Red Camry or a Silver Elantra or a Black A4.
Now the only differences between cars are branding differences, with a few exceptions. You get so big that your products flood the market, so that everyone has a Toyota, and everyone else copies the Toyota’s new look because people like it (see what happened with Scion? Then the Element, now the Cube, on and on …). The big car companies tweak what they see and create their own 98 percent similar version. They don’t lead, they follow.
[Actual legal disclaimer because I’m nervous: That is a false rendering of how it happened. I am not saying any of this is fact. Thank you. Please don’t bury me in law suits, I eat out of cans.]
Look, I don’t have any science to back up that assertion — I’m not a medical practitioner and I’ve never even watched Top Gear more than sporadically. I only know what I see. I see it in small businesses and colorful cars — forced out by the growing corporate homogeny. Everything and everybody looks the same for the sake of massive companies making a buck (or billion).
In the end, wouldn’t you rather shop at a place that you can’t find anywhere else in the world? Wouldn’t you rather drive a car like the one to the right?
Bennett Rea is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles, CA. A survivalist with various primitive skills and a distrust of Snapchat, he’s just trying to be a human in an increasingly technological world. He also works at an art gallery on one of the country’s trendiest retail blocks and constantly battles the urge to flee for a cabin in the mountains filled with books and bourbon.