Detroit, Once Home of Car Design?

The Motor City. No city is more home of the car; and home of car design too – this is where Harley Earl set up his Art and Colour studio in 1927 and where tape drawing and clay modeling were invented too. But, as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the show, “Fiat is a Brazilian brand with an Italian origin”, we wonder if now car design is more of a Californian, Asian and European discipline with a Detroit origin…

CDR decamped to properly cold Motown last week to see the debut of big classical sedans, butch coupes, pumped-up pickups, a watered down hybrid and a no-holds-barred mid-engine supercar.

Meanwhile on the show floor Tesla entertained a constant stream of visitors keen to experience their older (but newer) interiors, Local Motors were 3D printing a car, and brands from Europe and Asia showed off dedicated electric car designs, small carbon fiber designs and new tiny crossovers and compact wagons. And they were just the production cars.

An autonomous luxury car, a crossover-pickup and fuel-cell family car were amongst import-brand concepts. Only the Chevrolet Bolt – and perhaps the left-field pedal powered Cyclone – offered a Michigan view of vehicle design not conceptually wedded to the late-mid 20th century.

Is this a Euro-centric perspective that fails to grasp the very different world of American car design and the people that consume it? Perhaps it is. But then if the counter-point is that Motown car design is leading the world, which of the Big Three debuts of Detroit 2015 will be looked to by others, let alone give us fresh solutions to today’s problems?

With so much passion, with so much talent, with so much history of defining the automobile, maybe Motown will stop looking backwards and reassert itself as home of car design. We hope so, we really do.

This article originally appeared on Car Design Research and was republished with permission.


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