The Ugliest Cars of 2012

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonfogelson/2011/12/07/the-ugliest-cars-of-2012-2/

 

The Ugliest Cars of 2012

 

Automotive design is part art, part engineering, part manufacturing, part marketing.On rare occasions, all those parts come together to create a brilliant, transcendent car. This year, art, engineering, manufacturing and marketing have collaborated to produce the vehicles on our list of the Ugliest Cars of 2012.

We polled a group of experts, and asked them to express their opinions on a list of vehicles available for sale in the United States for the 2012 model year. We also asked them to share their thoughts about the current state of automotive design. Our experts were: George Peterson, President and founder of Auto Pacific, a leading automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm; Michelle Naranjo, managing editor at Autobytel.com, automotive socialite and host of Autoline Detroit’s Open Line Show, often found on Twitter as @MissMotorMouth; and Evan Gubernick, creative director of Antenna Magazine, a men’s lifestyle magazine.

Each of our experts agreed that the Smart Pure Coupe deserved a place on our list. According to Peterson, the Smart is too small and “never accomplished the flexibility of its original concept.” Naranjo grouped the small vehicle designs as a category, and then stated that “the worst has to be the Smart for its inability to keep up with the Joneses of the subcompact world and continue to look like the toy in the bottom of the generic cereal box.” Gubernick was similarly dismissive: “Wedged amongst the bicycle racks on the canals of Amsterdam, this thing might seem at home. But here in the U.S., it will always be a toy hanging from a rear view mirror.”

The Acura ZDX received a heap of abuse as well. Gubernick derided the compact crossover’s design: “With the front of one car slapped on the body of another, this is simply misshapen. In an attempt to be both elegant and sporty, it is neither.” Peterson pointed at “mis-proportioned styling at every angle.” He called the ZDX “a very unfortunate car that sacrifices function for funk.” Naranjo claims that the ZDX “takes the parrot beak and turns it into a toucan.”

For Naranjo, the GMC Terrain was “one of the ugliest” SUV designs for “its sheer insistence on remaining a landlocked beast incapable of budging off a sandbar. To say that there is stillness in the design is a vast understatement considering that it isn’t stillness one perceives but the staidness of a concrete block bunker.” Gubernick wasn’t much kinder. “I kind of love the foulness of this, such a typically American reaction to European style. One day, they’ll figure out how to put Superman-style abs on the extruding details,” stated the Antenna creative director. Peterson is more wistful. “GMC Terrain tries too hard to look like a tough-and-rugged traditional SUV,” he opined. “This look may have passed.” According to Peterson, Terrain’s design is only “moderately ugly,” though “more appropriate for 1990 than 2012.”

Automotive design is a highly collaborative art, combining practical industrial design and engineering with pure aesthetics. Most automotive designers work as part of a team, and sometimes the resulting vehicles veer dramatically from the original concept that inspired the design.  “I don’t believe bad designers made bad cars, and good designers made good ones,” says Gubernick. “The ethos of a company will determine with is ultimately produced… Beautiful cars are the result of a team on the same page. Ugly cars are the result of the opposite.”

“Ugly” is a matter of perspective, according to Naranjo: “What is ugly to some may be the high performance, luxury or quirkiness that the driver feels suits their needs and expectations.” Gubernick concurs, concluding that “it’s a good time for car design” with a European sensibility emerging in American car design. “You see on the streets what you used to see only at the shows as concept cars, and though I’ve poked fun at them, mistakes will be made during these accelerated moments of evolution and that’s fine. The further the boundaries are pushed, the more the middle of the road will move as well. We reject what we do not know, so to call something ‘ugly’ may be more of a comment on our comfort with what’s next than with what we are actually seeing.”

Jason Fogelson, Contributor