September 16, 2011  ·  culture  ·  design  ·  tech

Saab and Jaguar are betting on bland

On the surface, things would seem to be looking up for Saab and Jaguar over the last couple of years. Emancipated at last from terrible parent companies that never quite knew what to do with them, each fell into the hands of new management that by all accounts seemed motivated to let them go about the business of properly making stylish European luxury cars without the technological handicap of Ford and GM components. It's always been our sense that people bought Saabs and Jaguars in part because the design of each reflected an extension of the brand's living history—the quirks of each marque's design language set them apart from their somewhat homogenized but unquestionably outstanding competition in Germany and Japan. It's for this reason we don't quite understand the strategy of banking on the XF (left) and the 9-5 sedan (right) to get the assembly lines humming at higher capacity. The most noteworthy trait we can say about these new Jaguars and Saabs is that they don't look like Jaguars or Saabs. Surely there are focus groups behind these designs, for better or for worse, that shaped the lines of these two pleasant but unremarkable and anonymous vehicles; focus groups that honed in on what the average luxury car buyer is after. We'd argue that these brands shouldn't go after the average luxury car buyer, whose needs are adaquetely rendered elsewhere. Build something special, with the unique character that comes from your storied histories, and cultivate the discerning and loyal buyer over the lowest common denominator.

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