By Michael Goetz
Does this cube design thing have legs? Should we be scared? Will box-like devices multiply, and then rise up, and in a show of force, destroy all aerodynamic vehicles? For answers to these questions we asked automotive design expert, Michael Pistol. He calmed our fears.
Pistol notes that box-like structures, like the new Nissan Cube, can be successful, but only as a quirky, niche vehicle: “Cars like the Cube and the Smart are designed for a very urbanized environment. In North American, we’ve never embraced that design idiom — because we didn’t have to — we have all this space.”
Pistol adds that the North American automotive experience is more about hitting the open road, and for that, you want sleek, wind cheating shapes. People can picture themselves running around the city core in a box, but if they’re picturing themselves cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway in California, it’s probably in something more aerodynamic than a steel garden shed.
He also notes that people are not emotionally drawn to boxes, so the decision to select a vehicle with box-like elements, will be based more on specific needs — like the family man who needs a Town & Country, or the contractor who needs a Dodge Sprinter. So he expects the new boxy “commercial” stuff at the show, like the Ford Transit and Nissan NV2500 to be also well accepted and certain to fill a need in the marketplace (if and when they get there).
The squarish Ford Flex is a bit of an anomaly, in that it is neither urban vehicle or commercial vehicle. So it looks like a gusty call by Ford, to differentiate itself in the crossover market with such a design.