The Open Road - A Resurgence of the SUV?

Vroom I'm certain that by now you're entirely thrilled that I'm not tweeting about kitchen cabinetry and faucetry and hardware and what will soon become my best of/worst of show.  And you're probably jealous that I just spent 48 hours in the third best city in the county (behind New York and Los Angeles) with some of the most awesome Twitter friends a boy could have (waving hi to my stalkeratzi!).

I'm kinda tired of kitchens too.  As much as I like to cook, I'm a realist and know someone will need to clean up after.  Break time!  Or in today's case, Brake Time!

It really is interesting to see what pops up in my Twitter feed as it ranges from design and interiors down the line to random political stories and someone begging for a vote on some online contest somewhere.  Some of my favorite posts, however, tend to stem from the automotive industry.  If you really want to see where design is headed, take a peek at what is rolling out of the European automotive design studios.  Considering the amount of dinero it takes to produce a concept and eventual production vehicle, they are about as ahead of the trends as it gets.

Interestingly enough, the one consistent thread connecting a great deal of the auto tweets is the introduction of not one, not two, but THREE exotic SUVs to the marketplace.  I don't mean concept vehicles that a few guys thought up around a conference table.  I mean, honest to goodness, straight to production Sports Utility Vehicles that will eventually end up in someone's garage in Palm Beach or Greenwich or Malibu (your garage too so long as you have the checking account or mortgage to withstand the financial blow).

As an aside, it has always been my theory that you can foretell the state of the US economy by watching the Automotive Industry.  For the last several years the AI has pushed the "small car", almost to the point that I want to put one in neutral and physically push one over a cliff. Diamler made their SMART car all the rage.  Nissan took to the roads in their Leaf.  Chrysler brought Fiat's quintessential 500 (and it's variants) back to the US.  And Toyota turned the Prius into the Best Selling "Ugly car" of the century (I'm going to call it Yugo from now on).

It was uncool if you didn't have a car that could easily fit into the rear compartment of your SUV.

But now.  Ostentation is back in full swing.  Cadillac Escalades with Chrome wheels.  Ford Excursions and seating for 8 (plus two dogs and matching golf clubs). The Hummer H1. Or H2. Or H3. All of them were at one point, the pinnacle of giant suburban vehicles .  Vehicles meant to carry cargo.  Not groceries but true cargo of sorts.  Like the crates you see in an Indiana Jones movie.  But instead, they're carrying kids to school.  Or soccer practice.  Or Ballet.  Or their acting coach.  And doing it on 8 miles a gallon.

And now, they're back again.  But this time, they're sporting serious nameplates.  Lamborghini.  Bentley.  Maserati.  I'll see your spinning chrome wheels and raise you an integrated champagne bucket.  Is this the beginning of a new chapter in drag racing?  Two moms in Jimmy Choos revving their engines at a stop light and seeing who can hit 30 miles an hour quicker?

Let me say, I'm no purist when it comes to vehicles.  I grew up with muscle cars but my first new car was a 2002 BMW 325 convertible with all the bells and whistles. I worked my way up to the X6 a few years back and now I'm trying to tout my environmental horn by sticking with a shared 328 coupe and my Car2Go membership.  I'm no stranger to vehicle innovation.  And by no means do I keep my opinions to myself.

My theory is this. Once upon a time, this one manufacturer known for it's quick convertibles and coupes (nary a sedan in sight) desired to revamp it's image as being the "car for the mid-life crisis".  Lost?  Here in California, up to about 2006 or 2007, nearly every Porsche spotted on the road was sporting a 40-something male reliving their youth.  Along came the Cayenne (and later the Panamera).  Purists screamed bloody murder.  Ferdinand Porsche died.  But the Cayenne quickly became the best selling vehicle in Porsche's line up.  Anyway, I would never say that the sales figures for Lambo, the Big B, and my ever favorite "car with the catfish grille" are turning into ghost towns, but I have a feeling they're trying to work a new angle.  Trying to catch new buyers to offset what might be a slightly negative connotation.

Herein lies the problem.  Competition breeds innovation.  Normally.  In this case, competition has bred three designs that should spend more time on the drawing board.  Lamborghini's design is a near knock off of BMW's X6 (which has been criticized from day one and yet lauded by everyone, including myself).  Bentley appears to have tasked the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to design its front end and kinda sorta forgot about the rear end (though let me tell you, I'm in love with the Chanel-esque quilted leather seats). And Maserati, well it still appears that the catfish is their major design influence. All three are ok but they've neglected to remember that you can't just put a coupe body on a Tourag frame and call it an SUV.

Rant much?

So my point?  Stick with what you're good at.  Bentley, Maserati and Lambo are never going to be hurting for customers so long as they continue to produce uber-exclusive vehicles that not only appear in every rap video known to man but are also the wet-dreams of every 15 year old boy.  As I like to say, be a master of some and not a jack of all.


Lamborghini Urus - Available Model Year 2015, Base Price: $200,000

(Photo courtesy Untitled Magazine)

Bentley EXP 9 F Concept - Available Model Year 2014, Base Price $200,000

(Photo courtesy Bentley Motors )

Maserati Kubang - Available Model Year 2013, Base Price rumored to be low $100K

(Photo courtesy Inside Line)

D.Coop was not compensated for this post.  However, if you have any of the above SUVs, please feel free to take me for a ride so you can prove me wrong.