The article “What’s in a Name?” by Helen V Hutchings describes the origin of the “Cadet”, the small car designed by Peter Brock that never made it to the production line. The development of his prototype was supported by Harley Earl, the head of Design at GM, who “authorized clays, engineering studies, and construction of an open buck”. After years of development, rare apparitions on some magazines, the concept died. Meanwhile, some of its design (and name), served as inspiration for other cars produced by Opel, but all these models lacked the essence of the original Cadet of being a small car.We read about a similar case with the 1934 Chrysler Airflow, more aerodynamic than its competitors, but with a design that the market was not ready for, making it a commercial failure.
Fifty-five years later, small cars like the Cadet, and aerodynamic like the Airflow, are experiencing great success and becoming the norm with reinvented designs and names. This examples show how sensitive the market is when it comes to changes, even when these changes are improvements. This rises the question out of curiosity of how many other improvements did not make it out of the design rooms immediately because of concerns of the repercussion in the market, and how many other improvements are currently sitting on the design tables or in a prototype stage being developed waiting to be released slowly in the next decades. Perhaps, some firms will start to introduce designs that break the norms, as we have recently seen with the BMW i8, expecting to get a larger portion of the market by creating a larger product differentiation, reminding us about the first years of competition between Ford and GM, now with more bigger brands producing various models at the same time.
It will be really interesting to see how other similar firms, like Audi, that have already been experimenting with prototypes, react to BMW’s view of the future of the car.