Automobile Design: It is Exciting in Europe but Only Promising in the U.S.

LIFE, December 8, 1947

Updated: October 04, 2012

This LIFE article was written following the 34th annual Salon de l'Automobile, a renowned European automobile exhibition held in Paris to showcase the newest European designs and models. The author points out several important differences between the European and U.S. postwar automotive industries, including the approach designers took to style and practicality, and the size and segmentation of the consumer markets for such vehicles. While American industrial designers and carmakers increasingly emphasized the "styling" of car bodies and developed a distinctively American look for automobiles, high-end European designs in particular continued to garner much interest in the postwar decades.

“The European cars can be divided into two groups: long, flaunting creations produced in small numbers...or imaginative but anemic little roadbugs designed for the 'poor man trade'... European designers care little for the dictates of production-line manufacture. Prizing originality and distinction, they use lines, masses and highlights as does a sculptor.... The U.S. designer, asked why he does not create cars on the European pattern, smiles wryly. He knows well that while Americans like such cars when they see them, they actually buy just what they need.... Europe's desperate and determined drive to sell its cars in this country for dollar exchange may, by familiarizing the U.S. public with more radical ideas, eventually create a demand for them." 

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"Automobile Design: It is Exciting in Europe but Only Promising in the U.S." LIFE, Dec. 8, 1947, pp. 71-78. 

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