Open letter to car designers

Car Designers:

I have been looking for a replacement for our aging family car.  As I have browsed the showrooms (I thought we’d probably buy near-new secondhand in a couple of years from the start of my search)  I have found no cars meeting my preferences.  I have asked at several dealers “Is there a standard way of giving feedback to the designers?  Some way to say what I was looking for that you don’t have?”  – and the answer is “What we get is what we sell – maybe you could write to the manufacturer.”

What are they teaching them in Business School?  Is this the outcome of the MBA courses?

For your information:  How I will assess candidates for “our new car”

The car will probably be used by newly qualified drivers, so I want their input – but they may be seduced by fashionable styling.  I have figured out how I will do the final selection process:

  1. With a tall teenager, the likely next user,  go to the car-yard on a 25 – 28 degree Celsius day.  Bring cardboard cutouts of high kerb and letter-box
  2. Have the car put in a sunny spot for the teenager to examine it.
  3. Check official fuel consumption.
  4. Check for manual window winding – Don’t listen to their “It’s a five year warranty!”: I have had a two-year old car electric window die, and, two hundred K from a dealer, that is not good.   The window which was repaired had serious rust start just after the warranty expired, too.  Secondly, for a student-car, out of warranty, we want something home-servicable – and as a student, I fixed my window winder when it broke.  Thirdly, what if the car gets dropped in deep water?  Electric systems stop onewinding the window down, making it harder to escape,
  5. Check for manual gear option – as a learner, it is best to get the full licence.
  6. Have the tall teenager sit in the driver seat, and check for leg fit and adjustment of steering wheel and seat.  How easy is it to re-set for other drivers?
  7. Have the teenager check for blind areas.  How big are the blind spots as things approach?  How far from the car do the letter-box and kerb become invisible?  Can the ve guess when the cutouts (held by me, so the vertical dimension is known) are about to touch the car?  Don’t use remote image systems – they’ll break down when you have become dependant on them, making more repairs income for the car manufacturer.
  8. Test for vision:  Can ve rest ves elbow on the window ledge?  Are the rear side windows higher again?  Would a toddler be able to watch the scenery from the rear seat?  When the driver looks over the rear seat, does the rear glass go down to the line of sight over the shoulder of the rear seat, or is there a lot of solid metal instead?  Can the driver see the bonnet’s front curve, or is the dashboard moulding raised so high that one can’t see even the top of the bonnet even when one’s head hits the roof?  Does the sun visor fold down to block vision at the right height to cut glare while allowing one to see the road ahead, or will the driver need a cap ?  (Many cars have the visor so high that it is ineffective – of which more later.)
  9. If the side windows slope in towards the roof, are there side shields, so that the windows can be opened to let out steam on cold, rainy days?  If not, we will need to run the aircon to stop the car fogging up.  That uses more fuel.
  10. We are likely to visit friends who live up five K’s of gravel road.  It’s not off-road driving – but rough.  We don’t need four-wheel drive, but is the car designed only for tarmac – for example, light-weight wheel bearings?  Expert drivers report that “safety” features which override the driver’s breaking and steering decisions are not good in some situations – including gravel.  Can these features, if present, be turned off in this car?
  11. Where is the spare tyre?  Is it one of those horrid “space saver” spares?
  12. Check the ANCAP safety rating and the RAC estimated repair/maintenance costs.
  13. After having the car in the sun for over half an hour, check the change in temperature:  most new cars have glass slopes which act as extreme greenhouses, making driving on even moderate days difficult without running the airconditioner, which brings fuel efficiency way down.  (Remember the Toyota Prius? )  For some reason, having reduced the glass below the driver’s shoulders the “designers” have increased the  glass above the line of sight.  Maybe the Japanese, Americans, and Europeans need to keep an eye out for low-flying aeroplanes?  This height of glass raises the attachment point for the visors, so they have to be clumsily large to reach far enough to be useful.
  14. Have the tall teenager sit in the back seat.  Does ves head cone within bump-distance of the roof?  Is there room for ves legs?  (Most “style” nowadays involves a tear-drop shape which assumes dwarves or under-twelves in the rear.)

Why do so few  cars pass this test?

I have been browsing for years.

I have been wondering whether the design of the rear of modern cars is driven by the desire to fit the corpse of the “average American” – the boot-space certainly is increasing as that standard changes.  Or maybe the stylists took clay models of reasonable vehicles, then booted them up the rear.

Now I think it may be a reaction to financial / environmental /emotional insecurity: turning it into a tank-like environment, with firing-slits for windows near the precious rear cargo (who are watching DVDs  – not the outside world), with only the top two-thirds of the driver’s head exposed to fire from oncoming vehicles, and with the chest protected above heart-high at the sides.  Paranoid styling – but really bad for driving.  Me, I think the cars look squinty from the side, and from the front the drivers look swallowed up by the cars

A new approach

Let’s have a car for the brave, sunlit, and capable lands:  with open views to the world around; near-vertical glass or heat -and UV- resistant glass;  manual windows; driver assistance technology which can be turned off; bearings and suspension able to take gravel roads; rear seats to fit our young adults (taller on average than their parents’ generation);  and no “sunroof” to rust and leak and let in sunlight.  Maybe make a concertina/ratchet sun visor, for better glare control.   Make more of the components user-serviceable,  and improve overall build to make the car the “student car” of twenty years’ time.   Save non-renewable resources by increasing the time to scrapping the car.  (Despite below-average family income I seriously considered the Prius early  on – until I found that the 12 year-old didn’t fit in the rear seat – so the increased price might not be as much of a bar as you’d think.)

Design a car like my cars from the 1970s and early 1980s:  tough cars which did not need air conditioning beyond 4/60 (4 windows down at 60 kph).  You can market it as “Environmentally aware: designed for vision, designed for hot climates, designed to last.”

Then I might buy a car.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: