Friday, July 22, 2005

Aztek Sacrifice

My favorite automotive critic, Dan Neil, has an interesting column about how we anthropomorphize the "faces" of cars, and how that factors into finding certain cars, like the Pontiac Aztek, unforgivably ugly.

The Aztek's troubles lay not down deep but at the surface. It violated the first principle of anthropomorphic car design—that cars should look like us.

Specifically, it had four eyes and two sets of nostrils. The Aztek's glittering headlights and running-light assemblies were stacked on the corners and the wide grille was topped with a slit intake under the leading edge of the hood. The effect was of two faces split at the nose and sewn together, a monstrous yuppie Caliban. It's not simply that people didn't care for the Aztek styling. It riled them in some primitive way. To scan the message boards about the car now is to hear dogs barking madly at alien invaders.

He also mentions the Fiat Multiplia, "the justly reviled utility wagon sold in Europe that carries an extra set of eyes at the base of its windshield." I remember seeing that car in Europe and thinking it was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. Before leaving for Europe, I'd thought the then-new Ford Focus was ugly, but the Multiplia convinced me that, until then, I didn't know what an ugly car was.

The "face" standard for ugly cars is a thought-provoking one. When I ventured out-of-doors to procure my dinner, I couldn't help re-evaluating every car's face.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I've always thought that the "faces" on cars looked more like cats and dogs rather than humans.