Skip to comments.Why Cars Got Angry
Posted on 03/18/2006 7:35:35 AM PST by BenLurkin
Seeing Demonic Grins, Glaring Eyes? Auto Makers Add Edge to Car 'Faces'; Say Goodbye to the Wide-Eyed Neon
Kirk Perry wanted a vehicle that would haul his family and tow a bass boat. He discovered an SUV with all that plus another feature he likes -- a really mean expression.
"I like the wide, snarling look," the 50-year-old small-business owner in Lake Owassa, N.J., says of the Audi Q7, which he plans to buy when it comes out this spring. "It reminds me of the movie 'The Mummy' -- when the monster comes out of the ground and starts swallowing everything."
Car makers have long talked about the "face" of a car -- headlights for eyes, grille for a mouth and the bumper as jaws -- and auto designers say the difference between a hit and a flop may come down to a vehicle's visage. Car makers used to strive for an inviting face, but lately they're pushing an edgier look: Car faces that look meaner, angrier and, at times, even downright evil.
For its new 3-Series sedan, BMW gave the headlights a slanted effect, like downturned eyebrows. Some concept cars are more extreme, with Hyundai's HCD9 Talus featuring a gaping grille and headlights divided by a horizontal, goat's-eye-style slit. The Dodge Charger, which came out last summer, has headlight pods shaped like a tiger's eyes. "The Charger's eyes are definitely its greatest assets. The headlights seem to make eye contact the same way people do on the street," says Dodge and Chrysler designer Ralph Gilles. "A mean face is what we're going for."
Why all the anger? Menacing front ends may appeal to drivers threatened by oversized SUVs and intimidated by the dangers of the highway, some designers say. "I'm not saying we promote rudeness on the road," says Eric Stoddard, senior creative designer for Hyundai. But he adds that a mean-looking car may make drivers feel they can keep others at bay. "It projects a message that a driver may be too shy or afraid to express," he says. "An aggressively styled car says, 'Get out of my way.' "
All of this represents a big mood swing from the designs of recent decades. When Dodge introduced its 1995 Neon compact, its ad campaign featured the car's face -- round headlights like wide, friendly eyes -- and the slogan "Hi." This spring Dodge is releasing the Neon's replacement, the Caliber, which has big, square headlight pods and a grille that resembles a gun-sight's cross hairs. The Caliber's slogan: "It's Anything But Cute."
The strategy seems to be working. Chrysler's 300 sedan, whose face features a gaping grille and headlights that seem to scowl, has outsold the more rounded-looking Ford Five Hundred by 33%. (Ford, in fact, says it is redesigning the sedan to give it a more aggressive look.) Cadillac's sales have risen 57% since 2002, when it began to introduce a wholesale redesign that features chiseled, angular front ends. Meanwhile, parent company General Motors' Buick and Saturn divisions, which tend toward softer and more rounded front ends, have seen falling or flat sales. Even Volkswagen's iconic Beetle, with its rounded headlight-eyes and a hood that forms a smile, saw sales fall last year to 36,000 units, from 42,000 in 2004.
Could be because . . . oh, I dunno . . because . . . Fords suck?
Dude. Lay off the 'shrooms.
I got big plans for my New Beetle.
Even their trucks?
I don't know if that really looks so much like a face as it does a . . . . no no no no no.
LMAO @ #9!!!