Design Regulations

How they ruined American cars:

Car homogenization has become something of an Internet meme. It turns out that all new cars more or less look alike. I had begun to notice this over the years and I thought I was just imagining things. But people playing with Photoshop have found that you can mix and match car grills and make a BMW look just like a Kia and a Hyundai look just like a Honda. It’s all one car. Truly, this cries out for explanation. So I was happy to see a video made by CNET that gives five reasons: mandates for big fronts to protect pedestrians, mandates that require low tops for fuel economy, a big rear to balance out the big fronts, tiny windows resulting from safety regulations that end up actually making the car less safe, and high belt lines due to the other regs. In other words, single-minded concern for testable “safety” and the environment has wrecked the entire car aesthetic. And that’s only the beginning. Car and Driver puts this as plainly as can be: “In our hyperregulated modern world, the government dictates nearly every aspect of car design, from the size and color of the exterior lighting elements to how sharp the creases stamped into sheetmetal can be.” You are welcome to read an engineer’s account of what it is like to design an American car. Nothing you think, much less dream, really matters. The regulations drive the whole process. He explains that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards with hundreds of regulations – really a massive central plan – dictate every detail and have utterly ruined the look and feel of American cars. There is no way out, so long as the regulatory state is in charge.

Gee, someone should write a book about this sort of thing.

6 thoughts on “Design Regulations”

  1. One of the most egregious examples of this (besides the cited counter-compatibility of safety and fuel economy) is with regards to lighting. European lighting standards are well beyond what is allowable by FMVSS including auto-dimming high beams, etc.

    Personal example: The US issued a recall notice on my motorcycle related to European-spec LED turn signals. Note that these are factory signals that adhere to EU lighting regulations. The signals fail FMVSS because they don’t have the correct overall SURFACE AREA for the light. Never mind they are brighter, safer, and last longer; the actual light output and overall conspicuity is irrelevant to FMVSS, only the overall surface area of the projection unit.

    Form over function, really. Just like security theatre, “man rating”, and other counter-productive regulations.

  2. Why I bought light trucks instead of the “midget clown cars” that were more expensive…

  3. I am generally against over regulation but I wouldn’t mind not being blinded by other people’s headlights. It is great they want to see the road. I also want to see the road.

    1. I’ve been new-car shopping recently (I was trying to buy my mom a new car to replace her 20 year old one that’s getting unreliable). Yes, the designs stink. The aesthetics and ergonomics stink too. So too do absurdities like a spare wheel well that can’t accommodate a full-sized tire. And worse, the electronics – I was seriously going to have to, on day one, tear apart the dashboard of a new car to rewire the “infotainment” system to kill the dang thing’s cellular connection, for which there is no off switch or separate fuse(!). (My mother feels the same way about being spied on that I do, plus she prefers a car that’s simple to operate – hates bells and whistles)

      I was expecting to buy her a new car that day, I even had my checkbook in my pocket, the funds already transferred in. We left the dealership in disgust instead (and made sure to let them know why). I’m now seriously considering buying a used car a few years old (same make) and doing some work myself to bring it up to like-new reliability.

      This is pathetic.

  4. They’re not yet exactly common, but I’ve seen an increasing number of cars that look like sneakers for toddlers.

    Alleged adults driving baby cars.

  5. As members of the shorter tribe, my wife and I hate the high belt lines and high hoods (bonnets to us but I’ve learned to speak and write American when required) of modern cars. We drive a 2000 Honda Accord. Only about 98000 miles on it. You don’t drive all that much when going to work is down the stairs and turn left, the shops (oops – stores) are only a brisk walk away which is good exercise and the longer trips are going to and from the airport or rifle range on Sundays.

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