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A Cadet that was not ready to go to the car market war

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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.

Brock’s Cadet

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.

BMW i8


  1. Alexander Dawejko
    Alexander Dawejko

    Obviously the i8 is more futuristic than any other car in production, do you think that it is too far ahead of its time? If not, will it hit big with the public because of the recent push towards futuristic concepts like Tesla, Fisker, etc?

    April 22, 2014
  2. heardd16

    I do not think that a simply futuristic exterior design is enough to break into and dominate a market. As Alexander mentioned, I think companies like Tesla will be successful not just because of a futuristic body, but also because the concepts behind the car (i.e. electric powered, zero emissions, etc.) are innovative and efficient.

    April 25, 2014
  3. Kade Kenlon
    Kade Kenlon

    The only way that electric cars will take control of the market is if they can replicate the loved features of a gas-powered car. Most consumers are unwilling to give up the power or feel of driving a car powered by gas. Tesla has shown the most promise this far by creating a similar body to some of the more luxurious cars on the market, and by introducing an electric engine that can reach 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds. Consumers have fallen in love with the gas powered engine and it will take a replica of that engine with more to offer in order to get them to switch styles.

    April 25, 2014
  4. The Tata Nano, launched in India in 2009, was small and inexpensive (“nano” means 100,000, which was the target price in rupees). The impact: lots of hype prior to launch about a vehicle that would revolutionize the industry across the globe, but sales to date have not been good, despite the low average incomes in India. Likewise by 1965 small, 3-wheel-vehicles more-or-less disappeared in Japan (see Deciding on Layout. The picture of the Cadet hints at the likely reaction: the driver barely fits into the vehicle. On a rough road – Brock’s design was 1959? – and you’d bruise your chin with your knees.
    An informational item on electrics: unlike a gasoline engine, an electric motor has full torque available until speed maxes out. Diesels have lots of torque at low speeds, too, but (?) suffer at higher speeds. If batteries weren’t an issue, all race cars would be pure electrics, though I suppose you’d have to add speakers because the noise is part of the racing experience. Now for a practical vehicle you want to extend range. Doing so without busting the budget is best done by balancing batteries against vroom: smaller motors cut weight, and limiting acceleration saves energy, both letting you go further on a tank of … er, a charge of electrons.

    April 30, 2014

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