Sunday, August 10, 2003

New Bowties -- Chevrolet is about to unveil a slew of new cars, including a tall, wagon meant to evoke the 1949 Suburban.

A tall wagon, like the PT Cruiser, is a great idea. Cheap-to-buy, cheap-to-own, useful, versatile, and playful. A truck look on what's emphatically a car. May they sell a million.

The retro-look may be a mistake, however. Undoubtedly, the 40's era Chevy truck styling will fare better on a mini-mini-van for the masses than it does on the ridiculous, low-volume SSR. (What everyone's not asking for: two-seats, an enormous trunk, weighing in at just shy of 2-1/2 tons, riding on a SUV frame.) But, it seems to the design analysis department at Downshift HQ, that retro is a short-term strategy that won't survive the long term. You build the New Beetle, everyone loves the iconic shape, but what do you do for an encore? VW's seen slipping sales and the best they can do is pump up the power and chop the roof. The essential styling is locked in by its retro roots.

Similarly, Chevy's going to be hard-pressed to freshen a car based on a late forties truck. What do you do five years into the product cycle, make it look like a 1954 Suburban (nearly indistinguishable from the 1949 model)?

Better to buck the retro-trend and create a new Chevy look that incorporates elements of the past (like Cadillac has done with its Arts & Science look).

If Chevy's committed to retro-styling a tall wagon, Downshift humbly suggests they look to the 1955 Chevy Nomad. It would be no more immune to the Downshift Retrostyling Roadblock, but the Nomad is even cooler than the 1949 Suburban.