Bob Lutz recently wrote a Road and Track opinion piece in which he identified designers as the most valuable person to an automotive manufacturer. Upon hearing this we frantically grabbed for reasons to prove him wrong, but as we slunk back into our chairs we realized that he’s likely right.
Looking at the auto industry in terms of profit – a much too common condition – shows that the majority of consumers care more about the looks of a car rather than its actual performance. Lutz says that this is a strong suit for Hyundai and Kia with their lead designer, Peter Schreyer. Could this be true, is form truly better than function?
As we mentioned, this is in terms of profit, but that’s how manufacturers see it anyway, isn’t it? Does this mean the General should pay designers more than the engineers who produce wonders like the LT4 V8 engine? Or that, perhaps GM should cut pay for the engineers who aim to improve crash and safety ratings? These are a couple of opposing points we came up with. Another issue we had was the idea of what qualifies something as a ‘good’ design. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t the perception of how the car looks more important than how the car actually looks?
Before this gets too meta and weird, let’s just think about this question; if the Chevy Cruze was as good looking as the Corvette or Camaro, would sales increase? In this sense, we think Lutz is correct.
What do you think? Is design truly the most vital component of a new car? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below.