Two American Sedans that Could Have Been Great
I was recently reminded of the original 2003 Pontiac G6 Concept. This concept predated and predicted the upcoming Pontiac G6 “sports sedan.” Along with another recent sedan – the Lincoln Zephyr/MKZ – the G6 epitomizes the expression “lost in translation.” I would like to explore the ways Lincoln and Pontiac took those two distinctive, impressive concepts, and turned them into something much less inspiring.
As a disclaimer, I am not anti-Detroit; I am not singling out these two sedans as an attempt to say Toyota, Nissan, or Volkswagen do not make similar mistakes. However, looking at the production versions of all three of these cars, I just can’t help but daydream how much better they could have been.
The biggest problem with both the Zephyr and G6 is that their production versions were so close to their concepts. At first glimpse, both sedans seem “close to concept,” but the devil is in the details; and it is these details – the subtle curves and bulges, the proportions, and detailing, that made the concepts so impressive, and made the production cars much less so. Very few of these changes were necessary, forced onto Pontiac or Lincoln by the realities of the platform or manufacturing. Many of these changes were not even simple cost-cutting; they were simply bad decisions in designing the cars.
Together, these two vehicles represent the transitional phase for both General Motors and Ford Motor; a phase where they were truly trying to make better cars, but instead highlighted the true level to which they forgot how to build exceptional cars. The cars highlighted the lack of courage to take risks in the midst of these companies, the lack of understanding that a dollar spent right will return many times over, and understanding of the finesse of the automotive design and delivering the total package.
Most importantly however, these two models simply suffer because the concepts over-promised by such a great margin. The G6 and Zephyr (now MKZ) are not bad cars, but compared to their respective concepts, they simply look bland, cheap, and pedestrian. And I just cannot help thinking what if… what if we did have the G6 concept in the Pontiac showrooms, the one with true sport sedan proportions and sporty ambitions? What if we had the truly luxurious Zephyr in the Lincoln showrooms, the one with beautiful tail-end, cleverly detailed interior, and refined profile? Maybe they would have set the world on fire and convinced people Detroit is back, instead they convinced people that Detroit is awake again from its coma, but still has some ways to go.
I will not waste more space and words talking about the details changed – instead, you can go for a gallery of all four cars and see for yourself. After all – to belabor all clichés available – a picture is worth a thousand words.
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