Would suit: My brave new world
Price: 24,825 (as tested, 2-litre diesel model)
Performance: 112mph, 0-60 12.2 secs
Combined fuel consumption: 32.5mpg
Further information: 0800 666 222
As a renowned revolutionary thinker, I do occasionally feel obliged to come up with an original idea. I had one around late-2005, but apparently that wasn't enough and I have been under editorial pressure to come up with another (honestly, who do they think I am, Bertrand Russell?)
I thought long and hard, got really quite worried when nothing happened, rifled through my back issues of Car magazine from the 1980s, before finally inspiration struck as I drove the new Chevrolet Captiva ironic, given that it is perhaps the least inspirational vehicle not to be found among a local milk-delivery fleet.
The Captiva got me thinking about the power of automotive brands, and our preconceptions about them. "This could be just about any Asian, American or even British or French brand," I thought to myself as I drove it for the first time. "Apart from the badge, what makes it a Chevrolet?" The Captiva's provenance is as muddied asa Bermondsey Market old master. Is it a Daewoo? (Answer: to all intents and purposes, yes it's built in the old Daewoo factory in South Korea and sold as the Daewoo Winstorm in Asia.) Or is it a Vauxhall? Well, the Vauxhall Antara is built at the same factory, so I suppose, in a way, yes. (Helpfully, the guys who delivered mine also brought along an Antara; parked side by side, the two made for the kind of spot-the-difference competition that would greatly vex a News of the World reader.) I suppose it could be a Chevrolet, but only in the sense that someone has decided that's what to call it. It might as well not have any badge. Why bother?
So here it is. My big idea: why bother? What if cars were sold anonymously, with no badges or other corporate identity? Companies would only be allowed to make "a saloon", "an SUV", "a small hatch", and so on, of a pre-ordained (by me, obviously) generic appearance without imposing their brand identity in any way. BMW would have to chuck the flame-surfacing; Audi would have to ditch the fangs; and Peugeot wouldn't be allowed to make cars with whale sharks' gobs. Without badges or styling cues, we wouldn't know which marque was responsible for which car.
Without the fog of prestige or heritage to befuddle us, we would be more prone to select cars on their merits. Good, reliable, efficient brands that were previously deemed naff (Nissans, for instance) would sell well; bad cars with what were once cool badges (Land Rovers, Jaguars) would not. The Suzuki Swift would outsell the Mini by two to one; the VW Phaeton would take all Bentley's sales; and no one would ever, ever buy a Volkswagen Golf. Ever.
This wouldn't bode well for sales of the Captiva. It boasts not one distinctive design quirk or trace of personality and there are several other SUVs that are better in virtually every respect. Actually, even with the badge on, I very much doubt anyone would buy it just so they could say they owned a Chevy unless, perhaps, they had a levee nearby they wanted to drive to, and even then the novelty would surely wear off after a couple of trips. *
It's a classic: Chevrolet Camaro
I can tell you're feeling a bit depressed about all this Daewoo/made in Korea stuff, so here is a true American Chevrolet, from a time when the US automotive industry had some pride and flair, to cheer you up.
The Camaro (French slang for "companion") may have been developed by General Motors as a rushed response to the unexpected success of Ford's Mustang, but it captured the hearts and wallets of Middle America. Launched in 1966 as a two-door, four-seater in both coup and convertible forms, with various six- and eight-cylinder engines and rear-wheel drive, it is now considered a classic "pony" or, depending on how big the engine is, "muscle" car. It was recently relaunched ina rather unimaginative, fifth-generation incarnation with styling harking back to the original version. Its intended target? Yet again, Ford's contemporary Mustang.