Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Parable of the Concept Car.

In October of 2005, Steve Jobs described to TIME Magazine a phenomenon he called the Parable of the Concept Car: "You know how you see a show car, and it's really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory!

“What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, 'Nah, we can't do that. That's impossible.' And so it gets worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, 'We can't build that!' And it gets a lot worse."

Last year MINI fans were stunned and excited by the unveiling of the super cool MINI Traveller Concept. It was rugged yet sporty. It was MINI but not Cooper. It was fun but also functional. Basically it seemed like a great way to extend the MINI product offering without treading on the Cooper—which was already working so well. In fact, I’d bet that most current MINI owners were just like me when they looked at it and thought: Yeah, I’d rock one of those too!

MINI just announced the release of their new 2008 model based on the MINI Traveller Concept. Apparently it’s called the MINI Cooper Clubman. Okay, so granted it's really just a Cooper with some serious junk in the trunk, but it’s by no means a bad looking rod. The problem is the classic phenomenon that Jobs described—none of the innovations that made the Traveller so amazing were carried over to the production version! It’s seriously just a longer version of the Cooper—exact same design, exact same engine options.

And why? Why tempt us with the multiple fogs, a cool spare tire solution, gear compartments and extra-wide doors? Why tempt us with a vehicle that could complement the current MINI, then just come out with a dumbed-down, additional body style instead!?! I honestly just don’t get it.

Last week, MINI updated their corporate site with a Build Your Own section for the Clubman. And I’m glad to report that with the addition of the right accessories, you can actually get the Clubman looking quite a bit like a Traveller. But again, even with that degree of accessorizing, I guarantee you’ll never see anyone rollin’ with both a Cooper and Clubman.
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