If “The Simpsons” has taught us anything about car design you didn’t already learn from a defensive driving course, it’s that pros, not amateurs, should do more of it.
This lesson comes straight from Season 2, Episode 15, where Homer’s long-lost and successful brother Herb asks Homer to design the ideal car for the ideal man.
And what a car was conceived – two giant cup holders, shag carpeting, tailfins, an extra loud engine and three horns, including one that played “La Cucaracha.”
The creation – along with an $80,000 price tag, ultimately doomed the car and further doomed Herb’s previously successful auto company.
It taught viewers is that car designers are generally interested in what extras consumers request, but smarter models must include what we need. So, Detroit or the foreign counterparts always must find that mysterious middle place between “basic features that everyone needs and expects, but doesn’t really care about” and “real cool features that you don’t need but will love.” (Dealers love to push these extras, which can be everything from phone chargers to light-up vanity mirrors). Do not let your car agent do this to you either, find out how much car insurance is for NYC first-time drivers.
The sweet spot certainly shifts every year especially when new models contain new features, and higher-ends vehicles include even more cool touches, that eventually make their way to all models.
For instance, safety features like reverse cameras are starting to show up in more models, not just the extra safe or extra safety ones.
Even the appallingly high price for “The Homer” that the show predicted no one would ever pay that much money for is coming true with products like Tecla’s – not everyone can afford them, but those who are able to, quite love the status of owning one.
So, is it possible for the everyman or everywoman to be part of a car design? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Here are some of the ways:
Go to school
Bachelor degree fields like mechanical engineering and transportation design can provide professional skills that can be supplemented by jobs in the auto industry or a graduate degree in automotive design. Positions are in this industry are competitive but fresh talent is welcome.
Spend time around vehicles
Getting your hands dirty at a service station, dealership, body shop or race team can also provide opportunities to work on cars and figure out custom fixes to make them work better plus superior hands-on experience that you can’t get in a classroom.
Learn more about safety
A defensive driving course or safety overview can provide info about what features are in your car and what should be.
Share your vision
Some automakers do welcome public suggestions for future extras, either on their forums or through email. Ford, for instance, makes a point of creating different user advisory groups and seeking their opinions. But if you do want to present a complete innovative design concept and less of a wish list of super sweet extras, industry officials encourage you to file a patent or at least a basic copyright before officially showing it to anyone. This protects your intellectual property, and could even make you some money if a company likes your idea and wants to purchase it.
Consider a kit
One of the best ways to learn about all the components of an auto is to build one yourself from new and used parts, either using blueprints or adapting as needed. Depending on where you live, some kit cars are allowed on certain roadways, provided they pass a basic safety inspection.
Overall, “citizen input” can provide automakers good guidance, but too much of a ‘wish list’ could cause the price to jump or create something unsafe.