When automobiles first went mainstream, they were the same shape as the crossovers and SUVs drivers want again today. It should be no surprise modern drivers want vehicles that fit our bodies and our lifestyles. The real question is why waited so long to get back to what works best.
Subcompact cars don’t work well for most people. Low-slung coupes into which one needs to bend and twist to enter and exit, and sports sedans with B-Pillars directly next to the driver are hard to get in and out of, particularly for those drivers of advanced age. Cars were not originally shaped like this. They were upright, the occupant area was basically square, and they were easy to get into and out of. Running boards were common. There was an upright cargo area behind the second row of seats. They also were not low to the ground. This shape is what works for adult humans and it also affords a good look at the road ahead and to the sides.
For reasons of price, performance, aerodynamics, and style some vehicles became much lower, much more compact, and much less user-friendly as the automobile evolved. But not all vehicles. All along we have had some vehicles that put function first and form last.
The image above shows the early cars of the pre-WWII era. Every vehicle in the image is the shape of the vehicles most popular today. Below is an image that was taken at exactly the same spot this week. This same automotive theme is played out across America. Coupes and sedans are still around and a small handful still sell in decent numbers. However, overall, crossovers and SUVs are what most people want to drive day in and day out. Because they fit us and they fit our lifestyles. Like they always have.
Could the Jeep Wrangler in the new image and the soft-top “car” at the bottom of the older image be shaped more alike?
As Chrysler and now Ford begin to abandon mainstream compact and midsize sedan designs, automotive writers are filling the pages of enthusiast magazines and the screens of online publications decrying the change. Let’s face reality. Personal automobiles in America started out in the shape of what we now call compact crossovers and mid-sized SUVs, and were primarily made in that shape for the first four decades of their mainstream existence. It looks like they will end their last decades of existence that same way.