Insincere Imitation

Today was the first media day in Detroit, and three new Asian car manufacturers released their concept cars showing the direction of future styling. Is it just me, or is the wraparound glass, blacked out A-pillar and roof graphic a bit Saab? Sure there have been a few cars with notable blacked out A-pillars like the Range Rover and the Nissan GTR has been doing it for a little while (though well after the Aero X hit the scene). These new concepts just came across as blatant xerox copies in my eyes.

It kills me to see them harvesting the ideas of Saab designers from a decade ago, while the brand languished and is only now getting back to a crawl.

wraparoundThat Kia even took the hockey stick and proportions of the C-pillar from the NG 9-5 really sticks out to me. Classy.

44 thoughts on “Insincere Imitation”

  1. But they all have a better design at the rear wheel. It doesn’t look as unfinished as at the Aero X. But they others had more time 😉

    • Ehh? Sorry but it differs 8 years between the pics. Yet there are great similarities in the proportions of these designs – and of course a bit of more refinement. if you only judge them by the looks, I prefer the Kia as being most Saabish (except the front grille). I also like the Nissan for being a four-door competitor to Tesla/ Porsche. Still looks are one thing and what the cars bear inside are another.

  2. You are right, Jeff! SAAB have never been good to get the public credit for their innovations or new designs. And the rest of the industry have been stealing it very fast, so only few people know the right history. A pity and a shame! Still the Aero X is the best and most original of the 4 shown car-designs, but right now this fact is not very usable…
    Kia seem, interesting enough, to do their work better than the Nissan and Toyota (the latter deserves not very much respect in any regard being such a huge player contributing so little… – the antagonism of what SAAB was in some sense…)

  3. Saw a pic of the Toyota on a car-blog last night and was thinking the exact same thing. Even thought about giving you guys a hint about writing a post about this. Aren’t there also some parts that look a bit like Jascon Castriotas 9-3?

        • In this id do not agree, Tim. Design – or art – made from motifs of only trendiness, pure commercialism or imitation will never get the qualities from a true, honest and original work made from (also) more idealistic motifs and based in new technical, functional or formalistic ideas. That I can see very very clearly in my own working-field of furniture-design and architecture. It is more “mixed-up” in the car-business, but fundamentally it is the same thing…

          • In the end, what sells is the only thing that matters! Apple products sell like hell because they are well made, but most features are copied and then improved upon or sometimes even made worse than the original ideas.

            Saab should have made a roadster out of the Aero X, they would have sold 10’000 and gained 100’000 times more respect than it had before, but they didn’t and failed. The Aero X saved Saab in a time of need but it could have done so much more!

            But we should remember that it took the might of the GM design and engineering department in Germany to create the Aero X, it wasn’t something that came strictly out of Trollhättan.

            As to auto design to day, a lot looks the same, but its always been like that in my mind, its the small details and in the end what you really need and what you’d be willing to pay for that matters. Money talks… always!

  4. Saw the KIA Stinger concept and immediately thought Aero X!

    I always thought KIA to be a bit the new Saab, now I know for sure. The only worrisome part about KIA is that they don’t really seem to care what’s under the hood.

    So, I still have some Saab badges and a can with white paint, maybe I’ll get my Aero X after all!

    • Build it KIA!!!

      Other than the grill and the unique canopy entry its a near copycat.

      Anthony Lo should be impressed – imitation is another form of flattery.

  5. The Kia looks really, really good. Easily the best looking car of “the new three”. Perhaps it looks like what a finished Aero-X would have looked like, had it ever gone into production.
    I have seen the Aero-X “live” at the Saab Museum and it looks so much better live than in pictures. It has a stance like few other cars. Very few.

    But this Kia looks alright to me. 🙂

    • Agree, the KIA is far the nicest model of these three presented here by Jeff.
      I perhaps can see this one in the near future while my Saab Dealer did add KIA when Saab stopped producing cars in 2012.
      So for them the A-pillar as well as the “hockey stick” will give them some signs of recognition 🙂

  6. Anyone know if any former SAAB designers are at, or do work for Kia? There seems to be some very strong design influences not only with the concept but also the Optima (inside and out), the Forte has the same hockey stick window, etc. Just waiting for one of them to have night panel.

  7. No, Jeff, it’s not just you. I feel the same. And the Aero X got the shape of the windshield from the 99. Saab leads, the others follow. Speaking about styling, I must tell about the nice Christmas present I got. After two years of unemployment, I started to prepare myself for retirement, as I will be 65 next summer. But a few days before Christmas I got the message I waited for two years: I got my job back! Yesterday I started working at Nevs styling department, the same job as I had at Saab for many years, building digital models of the future Saab cars.

  8. Saab showed the world the blacked out a-pillar but left it to Skoda et al to introduce it in production cars. FWIW that Kia looks pretty cool and has some Aero-X traits. They should build it as it would sell. I still think Saab spent too much time showing concept cars and not enough time on cars we could actually own. The JC9-3 would have made Saab a laughing stock IMHO.

    • They spent waaaaay too much time showing concept cars! They were all stunning concept cars, but barely any of them made it out alive: 9-X, 9-3X, AeroX, 9-X Air, PhoeniX, 9-4X. Only two of these ever made it into production in any remote kind of way (even the 9-3X concept and actual 9-3X are quite estranged). On such a limited budget, Saab should have been more judicious with their cash. I really wish the 9-X Air made it out as a production model. I also wish we had the 9-5 SC instead of the PhoeniX, but it’s all useless conjecture now. Sigh….

        • Nice interview, even through the choppy English translation. I agree with everything he says. However, often grossly overlooked when thinking about all of this in retrospect: think how much funding went to pure waste because GM decided to cancel several Saab projects at the last minute. They even built an entire FACTORY at Malmo in 1989, to have it closed 18 months later. The Saab 9-7X (360 platform) was actually their THIRD attempt to create an SUV (on completely different architectures each time). Don’t forget the cancelled 9-5 Epsilon ‘Premium’ replacement of 2004/2005, many of the fruits of which were enjoyed by Alfa Romeo as the Brera, Spider, and 159. Or the cancelled 9-3 Sport Hatch which could have been a watershed car for Saab. Let alone the concept car budgets. Lack of investment? Probably. Lack of commitment and vision? Certainly.

          • Yes. Those aborted projects must have cost a ton of money. And led to all those reports of Saabs dire economic situation at the time. It was – is – very frustrating.

  9. If anybody sees this besides me chime in, but I feel like that Toyota is Ferrari LaFerrari combined with Alfa Romeo C4 in a blatant cheap coupe ripoff. I saw a video talking about their design philosophy for the car, they kept dumping out catchphrases like “slingshot design” hoping the press would run with one of the 10 PR hot phrases they’d dreamed up. All I really have to say is that Toyotas are great at what they do, they’re adequate to get you from point a to point b with good reliability, but that “car for the masses” comes at a price. They’re beyond daft and boring.

  10. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Actually when I saw the Toyota pics the other day, it straight away reminded me of the Aero-X. The Kia looks more original and I quite like it. Peter Schreyer’s work is certainly transforming Kia. Actually Saab isn’t totally innocent when it comes to design ripoffs. I’ve always believed that the 9-X BH was quite blatantly based on the Skoda Joyster concept from 2006.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Škoda_Joyster.jpg

    • Most of these “Ripoffs” are just coincidences. We designers generally don’t intentially rip off anything (99% of the time at least ). we just sketch away and do what we think is right. For sure somedays you design a car and suddenly you see a similar car at one of the motor shows. Doesn’t mean we just rip everything up and start again. In this business its incredibly difficult to be totally original. Go back to the 70’s and you will see concepts from GM based on corvette platforms without A-pillars and fancy opening roofs – AERO X.

      Most designers are influenced by similar things, fashions , products etc. I have been to a few studios now and its surprising when you join a new brand you will see sketches that are on the wall that are almost identical to sketches from the previous company and believe me these are new ideas that have never even been published or seen at motor shows.

      In the case of the 9X bio hybrid, that was just one of the many cars that were sketched at about the same time as the Aero X (2004) along other proposals 9-6 and 9-ZERO.

      As for the cars above, apart from the A-pillar there isn’t much of a connection between them.

  11. I’m totally biased, but the Saab looks the best. It lacks all the trendy adornments that will make the other cars look dated in 10 years. It’s like everything on the Aero X has a purpose whereas the others have lots of crap thrown on to look cool.

    Albert Einstein: “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction.”

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