As I wrote in my Camaro Synergy Green Special Edition article, the Americans are trying to put their best feet forward at this year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
Now, it’s no secret that saddled by the stigma from a rough decade or two, the American wow factor isn’t always as high as with Japanese or European product. And despite the fact that everybody borrows, no one will argue that some of the Americans have been snoozy on innovation, and even classics like Mustang and Corvette (a market that some foreign automakers have wanted to enter) are sometimes referred to as pieces of s*#t because of laziness about features as basic as cheap control panels. You’re going to want to add other negatives to the list, but you can’t – it’s my keyboard. Bottom line: American cars haven’t inspired foreign automakers to rip them off for decades.
With that out of the way, there are some efforts that seem to indicate a shift in perspective with some of the US automakers, and while they are baby steps, it may point to a larger movement here in the US of A. Now, we aren’t in the rip-off worthy realm, not even close, but we may be paying some long-needed homages, and some American car markers are going one step further–making sure their homages are up-front.
Like with its new Lilliputian lineup, regarding which Chevrolet used the word mini-car in its January newsflash headline, the automaker seems to be saying, “Ok, you have a MINI? We’re going to Americanize it, and broaden its market far beyond hip girls with the “Sex and the City” soundtrack in their iPod hookups. Ha!” So with that, let’s take a look at Chevrolet’s smallest member of that lineup: the Spark.
With car names, sometimes you think, “What the hell?” but the Spark – which is leaving its Daewoo-ian roots and now, from some angles, calling to mind a MINI Cooper or MINI Clubman, and from others, a Scion or Yaris – seems right on. Actually, the whole thing is super smart.
On the MINI website, the Clubman is described as having a “bulldog stance” and “Spartan charm,” which would make hip “Sex and the City” fans feel like insiders. The five door Spark, on the other hand, is not for insiders, and the un-pretentious, simple, “We are what we are,” marketing vibe let’s you know it, like when Margaret Brooks, Chevy’s marketing head for small cars said, “This small vehicle makes a big statement. With its fresh, youthful approach, we believe Spark will appeal to customers who want excellent fuel economy, functionality and style at an affordable price.”
No bulldogs or Scottish references anywhere to be found, and by using the word youthful, I don’t think Brooks just means it’s for kids driving several hours away for college at a good state school. It’s a euphemism. I also picture a newly single Mom celebrating her first self-supporting purchase, or workers who hold down several jobs needing to get from A to B, but because of its zippiness, if they’re driving home at 4AM after a double, they can at least have some fun.
And even with these design references to folks who eat blood pudding and raw fish, the car’s styling is somehow still American. Sadly, the company is being a little tight-lipped on specs, except to say it’s aimed at younger folks, will be roomy, but small enough to have agile-handling while still providing enough sturdiness to prevent from being carried away by the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels.