/ Motoring

Evolution or revolution – what do you want from carmakers?

After a two-day stint covering new car launches and concept unveilings at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, I have just one word to sum it up: evolutionary. Let me explain.

In recent years, car shows have been the stage used by all carmakers to wow the industry, be it with drastic changes to existing model lines or outrageous design concepts.

Whichever way you look at it, car shows had become a form of entertainment in themselves, rather than a platform for informing the industry about imminent changes to manufacturer ranges.

But Geneva this year marked a significant turn around for motor show themes.

Going back to basics

Instead of mind-blowing concept cars and vehicles powered by pencil shavings, we were presented with a far less revolutionary approach. This was summed up most effectively by the launch of the new Audi A3.

The third generation of Audi’s much-loved family hatchback has been nine years in the waiting, and excitement about the update had been fuelled by a couple of concept previews in 2011. So, you can appreciate that the presentation of the 2012 car received a groan instead of a gasp from yours truly. Telling it apart from its predecessor will take a keen eye if you ask me.

But Audi wasn’t the only brand sticking firmly to an evolutionary tactic. Porsche, synonymous with unveiling almost unchanged car designs, had the new Boxster. Honda previewed a concept of the CR-V, which attempted to smooth out the current car’s awkward looks with a coat of blandness. And Fiat’s new Panda could easily be mistaken for the car it replaces.

Even mighty car company Ferrari’s big offering was the F12 Berlinetta, a car that looks unmistakeably like a shortened version of the existing FF.

There were some exceptions to this rule of course. Mercedes’ A-class and Volvo’s new V40 are both significantly changed compared to the previous models bearing the same names. But overall, there were no cars that gave me a real buzz of excitement for their originality.

Hard times means practical cars

However, maybe manufacturers playing it safe isn’t all bad.

The fact is, like all markets, the economic downturn has affected carmakers. And it looks as if this has ultimately resulted in a cap on outlays, especially on the likes of concepts that won’t ever be produced. Let alone extreme style changes to existing models where the resulting impact on sales is difficult to estimate.

That means brands have decided to stick to what they know, what people like and what already sells. But is this what you, the buyers, really want?


Economic situation or not I’ve always been more in favour of evolution than revolution when it comes to cars, at least everyday cars.
If manufacturers have a design that works well, is economic, comfortable, reliable, practical and safe why throw out the design in favour of some revolutionary unproven new model, which will be sold to the gullable who must have the latest style and collection of gizmos.
I prefer an approach where they take something already good and make it better, more economical, more comfortable, more reliable, practical and safer.
If it looks just like the last model that’s fine by me, especially if they can offer the “evolved” and better version for not much if no more cost.

Sophie Gilbert says:
17 March 2012

I’d like faster evolution towards using non-polluting, renewable energy to power our cars, in my lifetime please. A tall order? I’m 48…

You are asking for a lot, Sophie. 🙂

If we accept lower performance then electric vehicles could become a more realistic possibility. The trouble is that we expect the same performance as petrol/diesel cars, though there is not really any need to produce any vehicles that will comfortably exceed the maximum speed limit. High performance drains batteries much more quickly.

To be more environmentally, electric vehicle batteries must work reliably for longer than present offerings, store more power and not burst into flames, even in the event of an accident. That is a tall order, but if fuel prices continue to rise, so will efforts to produce better batteries.

Sophie Gilbert says:
19 March 2012

Thanks, Wavechange.

At the moment I am convinced this is all a question of will and investment because the brainpower and the solutions, which will themselves undoubtedly evolve in time, already exist. I know it is an obvious thing to say for some of us, but at some point, either when fossil fuel prices become completely unaffordable or when fossil fuels run out, we won’t have a choice anymore.

Maybe car manufacturers’ current apparent cautiousness is a reflection of this?

Fuel economy is becoming an increasingly important selling point for vehicle manufacturers and retailers, and not before time. Unfortunately, a lot of the mileage is paid for by companies and other organisations, so fuel economy is most important to those who buy their own car.

I would like to see Which? drop uneconomical and/or expensive cars from their reviews and discussions.

Many disagree that we have a problem with fossil fuels, but no-one can deny that energy costs are rising.

Yes, we do need more economical cars & new environmentally friendly fuel sources, let alone to reduce our need for oil from the ever fractious Middle East. Lots was mmade several years ago for Hydrogen Fuel Cell propelled cars, but little progress appears to have been made despite it’s virtually zero emissions.

However, what I am completely baffle by on the matter of SAFETY, is that I haven’t seen any cars with a rearward projection on the top of wing mirrors to keep them free of rain/frost etc. i’m sure we’ve all experienced the effects of rain on mirrors with the distortion of the reflection.

Lawrence A. says:
30 April 2012

A full-size spare wheel please. If it’s not too much trouble.