The sonatafication effect

If there is one thing we all learned at this year’s New York Auto Show, it is the message of style and substance. It is the result of a hard lesson learned by automakers – taught to them by an unlikely teacher, Hyundai. It is, simply, the Sonatafication Effect. And the lesson goes something like this: You want to compete in the market, your car sells, but is rather drab. To grab headlines and hearts, you rebirth it – copying some of the swoopiest, most stylish elements you can ….ahem, borrow to stand out in the market. Hyundai geniusly did this with their wildly successful Sonata. They later did a repeat with the Kia Optima – two previously ( completely )forgettable and unremarkable cars that shed their boring skin and were suddenly all about pizazz and style. Toyota has enlisted the sonatafication effect on it’s newly beautiful Avalon, Lexus on its new ES and Ford has done the number on the new Fusion. Lincoln too with the new MKZ. We even have the Nissan Altima getting into the game and Acura with the new RLX. Perhaps the Chevey Impala is the student that gets the A plus. All these existing models that have been completely reshaped to stand out – and yet, ironically, now that everyone is doing the sonatafication, will it really stand out? The formula is easy – swoopy – none of those harsh creases and edges – leave that to cadillac – no wild cuts – BMW anyone? – and make it clean. Pull back the headlights – and throw in new LED technology – even if the Sonata couldn’t afford it then, it is the future now. Make that last rear side window really pinch – if it echoes a BMW great – an Audi A7 – even better! Make sure the alloys have blades – that says “upscale”, and the rear has to be high and multi leveled. And don’t be afraid to use the chrome window line – although maybe not as much as the Sonata – I mean really, the hood? Give the people what they want: A hyundai Sonata – only from Chevy, or Lexus or Lincoln. It is interesting: ┬áto stand out, you ape the design leader and create a crowd. And while this might be construed as a criticism, it’s not. I think these cars are all better for it. Perhaps by raising the bar, we continue to push forward. And perhaps one of them will break through and completely develop its own design language and re-set the bar. Here’s watching…

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