The problem with Dodge, and to a lesser extent, Chrysler lately is that the design ethos behind their cars, regardless of class, is ungracefully aggressive. This is characterized most notably by the long distance between the bottom of the front bumper and the highest point on the shortish, apparently overstuffed hood, often accentuated by a tapering at the rear of the vehicle. Sadly, this "big grill" look has been copied by several other automakers.
The Dodge Magnum may be the worst offender, with the Nitro and the Caliber running closely behind it. It's the quality that Automobile Magazine called "American badassness." I get the same dismaying feeling about early 21st century American culture when I see a corpulant Dodge Magnum station wagon bitch-slapping its way through traffic as I do when I see one of those sans-serif Bush Cheney 04 stickers. I don't think it's a stretch to call them two sides of the same coin.
Going by what DaimlerChrysler is previewing at the North American International Auto Show this month, it will be more of the same. From my less than full view, the Chrysler Nassau looks like a cross between the Magnum and that brontosaurus of a car, the Pacifica.
There are a few notable exceptions. The PT Cruiser is aggressive looking only in a foppish way. It appears to have been custom made for middle-aged people who wear fanny packs. It's ugly but basically harmless from a design point of view. The Charger puts Dodge's bullying aesthetic to good use. A Charger should look mean. And the Dodge Viper looks to be legitimately built with badassness, as it were.
Similarly, DaimlerChrysler's ad campaigns for their Dodge cars appear to be overseen by Karl Rove. They aim for peoples' worst impulses of selfishness, domination and dealer-bought hyper masculinity. Admit it or don't, but people (including many I know) take their attitudinal cues from commercials like this Dodge Nitro spot or this one for the Magnum. Sure, cute and fuzzy creatures are annoying, but scaring the f**k out of them isn't particularly funny or satisfying. Dodge ads celebrate the worst of human nature, nudging the culture in an ugly direction. I don't want to live in a place where everybody is out constantly grabbing life by the horns.
While I'm on a rant about advertising, I'm sure you've seen the commercials for Chevy trucks with the John Cougar Concentrationcamp soundtrack. You know: "This is our country". The original one was repulsive, using images of 9/11 to sell trucks, but have you seen the latest in which they an show an anvil with the accompanying text (THIS IS OUR CONCEPT VEHICLE), and dirty work boots and jeans (THIS IS OUR DRESS CODE). My favorite wry affront to the elite is the tired looking firefighters: (THIS IS OUR FOCUS GROUP). Actually, no. You are ad executives. YOUR FOCUS GROUP is... a focus group.
The Songs I'm Listening To:
Toto - Rosanna
Archie Bell & the Drells - Tighten Up
Scud Mountain Boys - Massachusetts
Steve Reich - It's Gonna Rain