Name this car? Named!!

Earlier today I posted a picture of a car with the grille blacked out so that people couldn’t tell what manufacturer it was. Your job was to guess the manufacturer. That was earlier in the day. Now, from PT in comments:

OK Swade, c’mon now. Time to put those of us interested enough to care but not enough to Google out of our misery….What is it?

Between the guesses here and on Facebook you had most of the major companies covered, with the exception of Ford and Toyota. There were nominations for GM, Hyundai, Kia (quite popular), Peugeot, Jaguar, Audi, Lexus, Chery, Geely, Honda and Chrysler.

A few of you made the correct guess – Subaru.

I fibbed a little when I said it was due for release quite soon. It’s actually a concept called the 2015 Subaru Legacy Concept and will show for the first time at the LA Auto Show, which starts this Friday. Subaru say – and recent trends with ‘concepts’ back this up – that the car speaks to the new design language that the brand’s models will have in the near future.

As someone pointed out in comments, the breadth of guesses pretty much proves the point I was trying to make: cars are getting more and more generic in their design. The shape of mainstream brand cars is very similar with just the ‘face’ they draw on that shape providing the difference.

For most carmakers, the days of the distinctive silhouette are pretty much over.

Subaru-Legacy-Concept-LA-Auto-Show-2013-000

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14 Comments

  1. Apropos Ford: Isn’t it interesting that (european) Fords are starting to look like Aston Martins but only AFTER Ford sold Aston Martin?

  2. A big ugly nose that looks like it belongs on a truck. The rest looks a little better maybe. Unfortunately too many cars have this heavy look nowadays and it is generic.

  3. This is a Subaru concept, which means that it’s the car that Subaru designers wanted to build. As with previous Subaru concepts, the production car will be much uglier. Not sure why they do that, but it’s working for them in North America and Japan.

    Honda’s idea of a concept car, on the other hand, is to take the first car off the line and fit really big rimz. They generally only show concepts a few months ahead of releasing the production model. With the notable exception of the NSX, of course.

    My money was on Hyundai for this one, but that’s only because there is a Sonata replacement on the way. As others have noted, it could conceivably come from almost any brand, from Acura to Volvo. Interestingly, I don’t think that it looks like an Audi/BMW/Mercedes. Say what you want about the German big 3, they’ve managed to keep their distinct brand identities.

    1. I think the reason that real Subarus are always uglier than the concept cars is that the manufacturing part of the company has a lot of say in the final product, and the manufacturing people aren’t involved with the concept cars. What I’m saying is that the manufacturing folks monkey with the design and get their ugly changes to stick.

  4. I didn’t make a guess as to what this is since I had already seen the leaked Subaru picture in connection with a story on the LA show. Still, as a Subie owner (and long time Saaber) it saddens me that they can’t seem to get a grip on a brand design identity. Apparently they have reached some internal consensus around this particular grille shape (see latest Forester for the short version), but in truth it is just another variation on the Audi grille, which is all the more obvious in this tall version. The side sculpturing is influenced by the Honda Accord prior to the latest facelift (the one that got more BMW-like). This is not an enduring identity and Subaru, like so many other brands in the same situation, will soon be searching for the next Big Answer. (Side note: while Saab and Subaru worked together a dozen years ago you could see that Subaru developed some sort of brand crush on Saab by the very Saab 96-ish center grilles that suddenly appeared on the Impreza and the original Tribeca.)

    Yes, car design is heavily influenced by legislation and regulation – particularly occupant and pedestrian protection requirements that are driving higher hoods, flatter fronts and an overall bulkier body shell. However, it is too easy to blame the government for everything and let it go at that. In fact, this sameness and lack of originality in exterior design is not really new and it is primarily driven by three factors that have been at work in the auto industry globally for decades. First, very few design chiefs are steeped in the history of the brand and have a powerful enough position in the company. Second, most designers come from a small number of well-known automotive design schools and are taught by the same instructors. Third, in the absence of a strong creative force in the company and a design tradition that builds upon an identity that the market recognizes and appreciates, the marketing department and the bean counters will dictate solutions that emulate what they are trying to accomplish in the short run, whether that is to take market share from the current winners or achieve what another brand has done in terms of becoming more upscale. The short term pressures in the auto industry are enormous and the stakes are incredibly high in such a competitive environment.

    That is why ten years ago you saw trapezoidal grille shapes appear on brands from Mazda to Acura, then BMW trunk lids on all manner of cars (despite being derided as Bangle Butts when they first appeared), wacky LED strings jumping from Autobahn burners to rice rockets in one design cycle, and gaping Audi air intakes popping up all over. Pity the premium brand design departments who have to stay ahead of it all and still be true to themselves.

    1. DanD, I’m a SAAB driving Subie fan and I absolutely share your thoughts. Lacking the chance to get myself a new SAAB, I’ve been considering a Legacy or Forester. This 2015 Legacy concept, however, is a slap in the face of customers like us who like individual cars. A true disappointment. I’m not saying that the shape itself is ugly, but nothing, really nothing makes this concept a Subaru, exept for the logo. I mean, I don’t expect a design icon from FujiHeavy, I only expect a design language that distinguishes one car brand from the other and that still honors the “form follows function” credo. However, there is a small light of hope that our Japanese friends will finally find a design language that speaks for itself again: Tomorrow at the Tokyo Motor Show another car concept will be revealed, that is, a station wagon study of what might become the next Legacy Combi, the LEVORG. There is a microsite here: http://www.subaru.jp/levorg/sp/ While the front certainly won’t look much different, I’m very curious for the rear view. In the shape of a combi, this design might work…

  5. I thought it looked similar to a Scion tC or maybe a two door Ford Fusion. I’m quite surprised that its a Subaru. Maybe this is why interiors are becoming more important distinguishing points? Because they all look the same on the outside?

    The only one I didn’t think it was, was Volvo as you can still spot their design language a mile off.

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