|James B. Treece is industry editor for Automotive News|
DETROIT -- The Cadillac ELR won an EyesOn Design award this week for Best Production Vehicle.
Congratulations to Cadillac. The ELR is certainly a distinctive-looking vehicle, which keeps essentially all the design elements of the Cadillac Converj concept car.
But I couldn't help thinking when I saw the news that the ELR/Converj designers faced a much easier assignment than the stylists who were told to design the seventh-generation Corvette that was unveiled Sunday as a Stingray.
There's a saying in Japan that it's easier to draw a monster than a dog.
The reason is that nobody knows what a monster looks like, so you can make it look like anything: Predator, Alien, Hannibal Lecter, whatever. But everybody knows what dogs look like, so a sketch of a dog has to look right.
What does a Cadillac plug-in hybrid look like? Could be almost anything. What does a Corvette look like? It has to look like a Corvette, and that's a very specific look.
It's hard to redesign an icon, whether a Corvette, a Porsche, a Rolls Royce or a Harley-Davidson. You have to stay true to its styling, while making it look current.
The stylists who created the 2014 seventh-generation Corvette succeeded, in my view. It doesn't look like a Porsche, a Triumph, a Ferrari or any other performance car. It looks like a Corvette.
Some Automotive News readers commenting on the 2014 Corvette Stingray's design have made it extremely clear that they don't like it. That's just a sign that they care, that they want it to be a beautiful car. But I haven't seen a comment yet that says it looks like an Infiniti.
Will the ELR ever carry that same design cachet? Will we even be talking about it 60 years from now?
There's a reason the word "iconic" isn't used often in describing cars -- but it's always used for Corvette.