The world is full of back seat drivers of nearly every orientation. As Detroit flounders about searching for a way to meet the obvious needs of American drivers (low cost, high mileage cars) taking the time to criticize their apparent ineptitude is both fun and easy; perhaps not so coincidentally.
It’s easy to yell “Hey Detroit! Just produce a car that gets 40mpg for 10 grand you greasy bastards!” Make it ugly as hell, just powerful enough to get up the driveway and void of any luxury options besides brakes and turn signals. In essence it would employ the same design standards as low-income housing: Nothing you don’t need and not much else you could.
Genius I know, but presumably if there were a magic way to instantly design and produce a car that Americans would consume like Big Macs it would already be stuffing our drive through lanes like a clogged artery.
This leads me to believe that perhaps it’s consumers themselves that might be waffling between their check books and their pride when it comes to just what they want from their car.
What would happen if Joe the Plumber, Joe Six Pack, or say Homer Simpson ever had the chance to take the reins of a Detroit design team with unlimited funding to produce the car we’ve all been waiting for?
Actually I don’t have to wonder about Homer, because that already happened in Season 2 Episode 15 of “The Simpsons.”
Homer discovers that he has a long lost brother by the name of Herb Powell who is head of Powell Motors; a Detroit based Car Company that is on the brink of being taken over by the Japanese because of mismanagement.
Homer voices his disgust in Powell’s line of cars and Herb comes to the conclusion that Homer represents the “average” American’s cynicism towards his product line. Herb then decides to put Homer in charge of designing the car that will save Powell Motors.
Without any sort of creative regulation, Homer directs the design team to produce “The Homer,” a car so deeply engrained in American culture it sinks Powell Motors.
At the unveiling of the car, Herb lays eyes on it for the first time and finds that it is priced at $82,000 (in 1991) and is equipped with two bubble domes, fins, giant cup holders, a massive rear spoiler reminiscent of a Super Bird and three horns (“you can never find one when you’re angry,” Homer says) all of which play “La Cucaracha”.
The rear bubble is separate from the front, designed for unruly kids and comes with optional restraints and muzzles. Homer describes the engine noise “as if the world was gonna end.” Upon closer inspection, the car has an air horn, gaudy front grill, drop down footstep and a bowling trophy for a hood ornament.
Herb’s company is dismantled and he leaves town regretting that he ever met Homer.
Maybe Detroit is in somewhat of the same predicament nowadays, regretting that they spent the better portion of a century creating monsters out of their consumers. We’ve come to love our SUVs, HEMI power and yes, giant cup holders.