Volkswagen Group's Matryoshkas...
What does any of this have to do with the Volkswagen Group, you ask? Well, I guess the main point of my analogy is pretty much self-explanatory, but I should probably make it a bit more comprehensible.
The main differences in Volkswagen's contemporary model lineup – and the one from the next couple of years, for that matter – can only be seen with the help of the Hubble telescope. Walter de'Silva's infatuation with conformity in design is something that I simply cannot understand, but maybe you guys will help me on this predicament.
First, de'Silva was in charge of creating a design identity for Volkswagen's ailing Seat brand, where he actually succeeded where others had failed. The problem with that, from my point of view, is that he succeeded too much. When he left the Seat boat all of the Spanish manufacturer's cars were looking like the automotive version of "same sausage in different sizes". The Matryoshka analogy is a bit more poetic, I know.
Each Seat was beautiful in its own right, but the main differences between the models were strictly connected with size and body shape, since major details like the headlights and radiator grilles were nothing but copy/paste from one to the other.
After Seat's design completely assimilated de'Silva's vision, it was time for Audi to experience the same overhaul. Not that the pre-de'Silva Audi line-up was the best example of "motley" or anything, but the Italian is the man credited with making the "single-frame" design gimmick standard across the Ingolstadt manufacturer's range.
With the Seat and Audi lineups each homogenized to the point of not being able to distinguish between models from the distance, Walter became Murat Gunak's successor at the design helm for the entire Volkswagen Group. His first order of business was of course to re-evaluate (aka modify) the designs of three then-upcoming Volkswagens, which had been penned by Gunak.
Since the Passat CC was too far ahead into completion to inject it with the de'Silva homogeny virus, the first new Volkswagen in modern times to feature a completely new design language was the Golf. The most good-looking Golf in years, the press said, until its smaller brother the Polo soon arrived. Does anyone remember Dolly, the first cloned mammal? My point exactly.
After the Polo all hell broke loose, with each and every new model launched by Volkswagen in the last couple of years having the Golf 6 (or 5 and a half, as some put it) face. They're obviously not identical-looking, especially when parked near one another, but can anyone tell me they can distinguish a Polo from a Golf from the distance?
On the good side, no Seat, Audi or Volkswagen looks like anything else on the road today. Each brand now has its own, highly distinguishable identity. But what about distinguishing a model from the other? Sure, sales are on the rise, except for Seat, so the homogeny virus must be doing something right, right?
Somebody rather smart once said that conformity breeds mediocrity, but I'm not completely sure if it fits this situation as well. What do you guys think, is Walter de'Silva a madman or a genius?
comments written so far
For me the new face of VW it reminds me of R2-D2 droid from StarWars...
And, it seems like this what BMW doing for years (in fact Da Silva, is gone ahead a bit more tham Hyundai , Kia, and BMW). I think all the mass manufacturers will follow this way in order to cut the costs. As far as I know, Toyota also decided to apply this sytem to its designs.
The manufacturers - either if we like it or not - are driven by the sales numbers and in most cases design is only a major ?weapon? in the sales war. Since most of the cars now - in the same segment of course - are almost identical technically speaking the only things that will count into the buying process will be brand, design and price. Brand cannot be changed, price change is restricted to what the competitors offer. We are left with design. For a car manufacturer though, the fact that e.g. Polo and Golf have the same ?face? counts that nothing important. They want to sell Polo AND Golf as many as they can as far as they sell better than Clio and Megane, Corsa and Astra etc.
As for the same design in the entire range, all manufacturers have implemented it one way or another in the last decades, unless we count the Russian and Indian ones.
The really sad thing is that concept is also applied by luxury brands like Aston Martin. Maybe that will be a good ideea for a later article though... ?But Mr. de?Silva, now you cannot tell Polo apart from Golf in the parking lot! Well, let me worry about that AFTER we have sold them both...?