Blog: Dave LeggettFiat Multipla softening up

Dave Leggett | 20 February 2004

I suppose it had to happen. The outrageously styled Fiat Multipla has not been a hot seller and is being restyled to make it more conventional looking. It will still stand out from the crowd but the overall look is more sober and less Robby the robot from Forbidden Planet now. Maybe the Multipla was always just a little too radical looking.

How far should designers be indulged though? Angus MacKenzie – the urbane Aussie who used to write for just-auto and now edits Car magazine – made a good point in the March issue editorial of his magazine. He said that the car purchase decision is always rationalised but rarely rational. And I largely agree with him. The marketing department that is driven by what the market says it wants risks compromising design flair for functional stuff that isn’t really needed. Sometimes you want a car because of the way it looks, brand image and the drive you believe you’ll get. Maybe the driving position would better suit a contortionist and the very occasional rear seat passengers will be a little uncomfortable. But, hang it, you don’t want a bog-standard minivan do you?

Design as differentiator? I must admit that, after initial doubts, the look of Renault’s Megane II has really grown on me. And the car’s European sales figures suggest that I’m not the only one. Designers vindicated I would think. It’s a tricky balancing act for the vehicle manufacturers though. They can ill-afford to take big risks with design on important volume models, but low-risk in the long-term may spell stagnation through less creativity, less distinctive designs and ultimately a demoralised design department that fails to develop and/or attract the best designers.

Fiat brings Multipla minivan into corporate styling fold


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