Originally Posted by username79
Why do automakers make ugly cars? I've often thought about it. I've seen an Aston Martin parked next to a new Accord. The difference is very striking. Does the Aston have curves that are hard to make (costly) in mass production? I would think with the economies of scale of Honda/Toyota that they could make just about anything at a price far cheaper or equivalent to Aston's/Fords manufacture.
I'll take a crack at this, as one of my favorite subjects is cars that are much nicer looking than their price-points would indicate.
First, the cars you're talking about aren't shooting for ugly but rather innocuous. The goal is to sell lots of them, and so the design can't be polarizing. I think several Bangle BMWs are beautiful, lots of people hate them, and BMW had record sales for the models because both views are at the extreme; most people simply bought the latest BMW and have no idea who Chris Bangle is. Adrian Van Hooydonk? His name seriously won't be coming up... Honda and Toyota don't need or want such debates. People don't buy their cars for design or performance, they buy them to avoid walking.
Second, beautiful cars raise expectation levels. The Pontiac Solstice is a gorgeous
design and a decent spors car, but its looks make you wish it had nicer leather, better plastics, a more refined engine note; there's a small cottage industry in updating Solstice/Sky interiors with wood and leather. The stock interior is perfectly serviceable and right in line with the car's price and the Pontiac line overall, for the time. The dis-satisfaction comes from the design of the car looking so much nicer than its materials.
A Honda that looks as nice as an Aston Martin is writing a check with it's looks that the rest of the car can't cash. Better to tone the looks down to materials and performance levels.
Third, this is an America-centric view. Some European car makers have mastered the art of nice-looking cars made with bargain materials. VW's managed it for a while, especially with their Seat and Skoda lines. The Dacia Logan is nice-looking, basic transportation. Peugeot, Citroen, Alfa Romeo and Fiat all make interesting, attractive cheap cars (Brera, 500). Hell, even Ford's Euro/UK division has done some cool, cheap cars. - I've always liked the first Focus and the Ka, especially the SportKa. Even the Smart Fortwo shows some thoughtful design choices and style risks.
However, lots of these cars won't play in Peoria and the car makers know it, as does much of SF. Americans overall don't care enough about design, style, or quality to warrant effort in these directions, and the people that do are seen as snobby, trendy, superficial or overpaid, same as with clothes.
And there's something to that: for every person that buys an item from an appreciation of its design or history, 10 more buy it because of the label/brand/make, and would be happy with a knock-off.