Two American Sedans that Could Have Been Great

By Igor Holas


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.

COPYRIGHT – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Techshake Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at .

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  1. This almost made me cry. The G6 concept’s proportions are so much better – Epsilon I is definitely not compatible with the “wide track” concept.

    The Zephyr concept was also so much more stylish than the production car. I can see how the G6 concept was a little less production-feasible, but I don’t really see any reason why the Zephyr concept couldn’t have gone into production as-is.

  2. There is a difference between stylish and stylized.

    The 1986 Taurus was an example of stylized and how dangerous stylized is.

    That bing said, I think the biggest let down with the MKZ is how the changes that they made not only took away from the style but also from the luxuary feel.

    The MKZ is a bargain compared to the ES350 but the plastics on the dash and the doors just look 2 much like plastic and the controls/switch gear look too much like the controls from a F-150 which is because they are.

  3. The problem with the Zephyr/MK Z is the doors; specifically, the window glass treatment.

    Compare the concept with the production vehicle: the concept has flush-fit windows; the production version has standard Fusion window frames, and compared to the concept, just doesn’t have the same “look”.

  4. Mark, I’m assuming you mean the 1996 Ford Taurus, not the 1986 Taurus. I know people hate the 96-99 Taurus for it’s looks, but I like it, and if I’m remembering right, there is a writer on this site that likes it, too.

    Pushing that over to the side, I agree with you about the Lincoln. I also agree with Chris haak about the G6, in that it just makes you crazy when you look at that beautiful concept and think, “if only”.

  5. The G6 Concept is boffo.

  6. I wonder how much the concept was watered down because of genuine mechanical/design issues? My guess is not much, if any. Just cost, I think.

  7. It’s unusual for any concept to make it to production form unmolested. Just to be fair to Ford and GM, that is. Look at the differences in concept and production models at any manufacturer and you’ll see some pretty big differences for a variety of reasons.

  8. That G6 concept is exciting to look at. It makes me feel all gooey inside.

  9. The G6 is a let down overall compared to the concept car, but looking at the Lincoln… the devil certainly is in teh details – I mean even that lower front valance could have been kept. It might have cost $20 more per car, but it would have differentiated the car greatly and made it look even more upscale. The rear is good as we have it now.

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