Sometimes, I feel like Higgins in the old Magnum, PI TV show.
Magnum – who was living in the guesthouse of an estate owned by the mysterious novelist Robin Masters, looked after by his major domo/alter ego Higgins – would engage in various affronts to good taste and sensibility, causing the always decorous Higgins to exclaim, Oh my god!
It is how I feel today, upon getting some backgrounder materials from Toyota about the pending 2022 CorollaCross. Which is – Oh my god – another crossover SUV.
Aren’t there enough of these already? Isn’t literally every car company making cars making them?
Many of them in lieu of making cars at all?
Of course, it is understandable why so many do make them. It is because they’re the currently popular thing, the automotive bell bottom cords of our time. Thankfully, people got sick of bell bottom cords – and today almost no one wears them.
But this crossover craze may never go away – because it is part of a depressing trend toward the Universal Transportation Module (UTM). The hard-pushing of electric cars dovetails with this. A homogenous shaped, various-sizes-fit-all conveyance of much practicality and no personality.
The non-electric UTMs are already in that NPC camp. They look alike, they drive alike. Almost all of them are powered by very similar little fours with turbos, driving the front or all wheels, together. That’s the main option you get. When they are all powered by the same electric motors, the only differences will be physical size, colors and the type of LCD touchscreen they have.
It makes one want to cock a pistol and point at one’s head – if you’re in the position of having to try to write something about it.
I get these increasingly spaced-out respites, as last week when I was able to spend a week rooster-tailing around in the V8 powered Jeep Wrangler 392. It is not another crossover and it does not have a tiny four with a turbo somewhere under its hood.
But how much longer? How much fewer in between?
At least the Corolla – sans the Cross – is a car. Which is enough – all by itself – to make it something different, for once. But that raises an interesting question, about an apparent paradox.
On the one hand, crossovers are in high demand – which explains why everyone is trying to sell them, rather than cars. But on the other hand, when everyone is trying to sell them – or rather, trying to sell the same thing – does it not also make it harder to sell the same thing?
In the Before Time – some will remember, though the memory fades with the passing of every new year, layered on the previous, such that only fossil do remember – there were all kinds of different cars and other kinds of vehicles, too – the type and layout usually closely identified with the brand.
Jeep, for example, did not make cars. If you wanted a car, you went to a Toyota store. And if you wanted a luxury car, you went to a Cadillac or a Lincoln or a Mercedes store. If you wanted a sports car, you might head toward a Porsche store or an MG store. For a luxury-sport car, there was BMW, which made (once upon a time) driver’s cars. For boxy, very sturdy cars, Volvo. Simple – and small – cars were the specialty of VW.
And so on.
Well, what happened to homogenize all of that into the UTM?
Government happened. Everything had to comply with the same things. The same regulations led to a sameness of form. Literally. The regulations all but require it. Without actually – explicitly – decreeing it. The end result is . . . the same. The high doors. The raised and bulbous butts.
There is only one way to cheat the wind, too.
Cars have long been rendered mostly the same in terms of layout, too. Big cars, with big engines and rear-wheel-drive outlawed – without actually outlawing them. Via government regulations pertaining to miles-per-gallon allowable, which got rid of most of those and left the few remaining expensive and thus exclusive.
The remainder, smaller and almost all front-wheel-drive with small trunks and small engines – and small interest in them, for that reason.
People buy crossovers because the handful of cars left can’t do what they need them to do. You can’t fit much in the trunk. They only seat three other people (realistically) besides the driver and they mostly can’t pull anything.
So they end up needing a . . . UTM.
It explains a lot.
It also helps one understand why “self-driving” technology – the Johnny Cab without the animatronic robot up front – is something many people seem to want. Because there’s not much to keep people interested or even awake.
But at some point, when everyone is selling the same thing – or trying to – it will become apparent that there is no longer much need for all of these different brands. How many ways can you sell cornflakes?
And then we’ll likely be down to a handful of brands – selling different color/different size UTMs, with “Johnny” in the dash and the passengers taking a snooze.
. . .
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