Some cars go out of fashion, some are unattractively functional and some fall straight from the ugly tree, repelling buyers and critics before anyone learns their virtues-if, in fact, they have any. But can homeliness be a selling point?
Market analysts at Honda and Toyota think so. The two manufacturers are issuing competing lines of boxy panel trucks aimed part-
ly at surfing and skateboarding twentysomethings-the so-called Generation Y. Honda has sold nearly 2,200 units of its Element in Canada, boasting, among other things, that owners can hose the vehicle out. Toyota plans a continent-wide launch of its Scion xBs after surfers began scooping them up during a test-marketing phase in California. Experts warn that the market niche is nar-
row. “Let’s face it,” says Richard Cooper, executive director of JD Power & Associates in Canada. “Twenty-five-year-olds just don’t have a lot of money.”
Carmakers might also wish to consider the checkered history of “bold, new” models on the sales sheet. Scrapyards are littered with the dubious results of freethinking design teams. Forbes magazine recently compiled a reader’s poll of the all-time worst, listing such duds as the Ford Edsel and the extraterrestrial-looking AMC Pacer. The modern equivalent must surely be the Pontiac Aztek, a conceptual mishmash (it’s the one with the tent on the back) many expect GM to discontinue. How ugly is it? Colby Donaldson, a contestant on TV’s Survivor, won an Aztek on the program and promptly put his up for sale on eBay. C.G.
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