The Next Same Thing

On North America's biggest stage, some missed their cues...

At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this January, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 "new" vehicles shown. What perplexes, however, is that a frightening number of them didn't appear to be new at all. Are designers running out of gas? Or is it simply that with people moving from one automaker to another, we're entering the Age of Homogeneity?

The relentless pursuit of what? (Or should that be whom?) The introduction of the 2001 Lexus LS 430 proves, once again, that if imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Toyota is certainly smitten with Mercedes-Benz. To Toyota's credit, at least they've done a really good job of copying this 2000 S-Class. Perhaps even more to the point, how does Toyota know what Mercedes is going to do far enough out to incorporate it into their own program? Or is there truly only one meta-luxury car design?

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Different? In the idea department, perhaps DaimlerChrysler is saving all their good ones for the Mercedes brand. Tom Gale calls this new Dodge Viper GTS/R concept a "racer for the street" (as opposed to the Viper GTS-R (bottom right), a racecar for the 1999 American LeMans series). Implying that any Viper belongs on the street is ridiculous, but the designation with punctuation marks is even more so. Perhaps we just call this one the Vïper.

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Second time around. When the 2000 Kia Spectra was unveiled, someone pointed at the front of the car and asked if the design team was a big fan of the second-generation Ford Taurus (like the 1998 model shown above)? But who can fault the Koreans for copying Ford? Kia certainly won't mind if Spectras sell like Taurii. Similarities aside, the Spectra is the first hatchback sedan seen in the U.S. market in quite a while.

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Do not disturb. With SUVs selling as quickly as other automakers can turn them out, perhaps Honda, a relative latecomer to this game, feels that differentiating its new product is unwise. The Acura MD-X concept pictured here (and looking like a not-so-distant relative of the 2000 Lexus RX 300 shown below), is "a glimpse at Acura's future multi-dimensional SUV, due in showrooms this fall."