You know that a market segment has become mainstream, not to say stale, when boring SUV models begin to appear here and there
Have you ever seen a movie that felt completely predictable? That you could spend the whole time doing something else and still grasp what the plot is about? Cinema enthusiasts often blame Hollywood movies for being cliché and too commercial. While that is a strong example, I am sure you have felt that from several other products over the years. As it turns out, cars can be yet another one of those.
Every now and then, automakers release generic cars on purpose. “Generic” in the sense that they do not have distinguished history or personality; they are merely products for people to buy. Their main reason is that people effectively buy them – usually in large numbers. To make things clear, this article is not saying that they are bad products. It will teach you to spot them just like you can already tell a bland rom-com.
Let’s start by what’s not generic
The Ford Mustang created a new market segment in 1962, was almost killed by the oil crisis in the 1980s, then slowly bounced back to become a top selling sports car. The Renegade suffered heavy criticism for being small and using Fiat underpinnings, but sold well enough in Latin America to make the Jeep brand stronger than ever. The Toyota Crown has just broken decades of tradition to stay strong in the market.
The Renault 5‘s minimalistic, no-frills project made it a tremendous success in France. The Cadillac Lyriq is starting a complete reinvention for the brand. The Hammer was AMG’s masterpiece back when it was an independent tuner. As you can see, it is possible to mention examples of many styles, origins, and price ranges. Some built a unique history over time while others were born with a rich and complex mission.
Automakers will always try to make profit from their cars, of course. However, cars like those pursue that goal in sophisticated ways. Some respond to people’s demands over time to be even more effective for them. Others embody the company’s principles and help it improve its image. In other words, they have an image. It is frequently rich enough to be interesting even for people who are not car enthusiasts.
Now, what is a generic SUV?
Again, a mere product for people to buy. Besides the Chevrolet Seeker that arrived in China and appears on the top of this article, we can mention several others. Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Ford Escape, Toyota Highlander, BMW X1, Audi Q5, the others in the photos… The current SUV market is so crowded that we could bring at least one example of each price range. That is surely too many generic SUVs out there.
Please do not get me wrong: these SUVs are not bad products. They do what consumers expect and some even earn press awards. They are usually reliable and efficient, and their package usually gives them good resale value. However, they are pretty much that. Products. They do not excite, fascinate, or inspire; you will probably never mention them in a car talk. Sometimes, you will not even remember they ever existed.
The Seeker, for example, appeared out of nowhere. Chevrolet did not bother to create a teaser campaign or to test prototypes in a way to attract people’s attention. The Corolla Cross has nothing in common with the regular Toyota Corolla image-wise. Mitsubishi did worse: instead of letting the Eclipse Cross become forgettable, it named it after the completely unrelated sports car. The SUV became fodder for jokes.
What’s the issue with generic SUVs?
We only watch those movies when we need quick distractions or to fall asleep. We eat generic food when we are hungry and in a hurry. We buy inexpressive clothes to wear at home or to make a base layer when going out. In general, we buy bland products to satisfy basic needs. Whenever we look for enjoyment and pleasure from products, we go to something different. Characterful, emotional, even artistic products.
Following that train of thought, I do admit that there may people who truly like any of the SUVs I used as examples here. However, that is actually positive; it means that they are not generic for them. If everyone chooses strictly functional cars, we will discourage the industry from investing in their artistic side. That is the first step towards dark ages like the 1980s, which many people consider a lost decade style-wise.
Now that SUVs have become standard in the market, you can expect automakers to release more generic SUVs. After all, they require minimal effort from them regarding their concept. Since we enjoy cars with a distinctive character and rich image, we should make an effort to choose those ones. Now, when it comes to your opinion, which SUV models currently on sale do you consider boring and generic? Why is that?