In the “good old days” there was a wide variety of car designs, with unique and distinctive shapes and styling. Many car enthusiasts and classic car enthusiasts yearn for the days of great vehicle designs of yesteryear – and it’s hard to disagree. In contrast, many modern cars look alike. Let’s take a closer look to find out why.

Reasons Why Modern Cars Look Alike

Nissan Sentra 2022 | Nissan

Many modern cars look alike, with a similar curved shape. There are several reasons for this:

  • Maximize gas mileage
  • Globalization
  • Packaging
  • Less freedom for designers

Maximize gas mileage

For modern cars, there is a much greater demand for vehicles with higher gas mileage. Some people buy efficient cars to save money on gas, while others do so out of concern for the environment. Additionally, with climate change, governments have mandated automakers to increase fuel economy.

The end result of producing cars to maximize gas mileage is less variance in designs – with cars that look alike. Modern cars have a more streamlined shape to increase aerodynamic efficiency. Essentially, most vehicles are designed in a wind tunnel. Even a small change in design can result in reduced gas mileage.

Globalization: cars are designed for the widest possible audience

Side view of the gray 2023 Chevy Equinox, highlighting why modern cars look alike
2023 Chevy Equinox | Chevy

Another reason why modern cars look alike is globalization. It’s a globalized economy, and to maximize profits, automakers try to appeal to the widest possible audience.

Road and Track spoke to Ian Callum, the iconic automotive designer best known for his 20 years as head of design at Jaguar-Land Rover. Callum said: “There was a time when you could identify the country the car came from.” However, in modern times, car manufacturers market and sell cars in many countries around the world. As a result, they are more conservative in their designs – and less likely to produce uniquely designed cars that might not sell well in other countries.

Car wrapping

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The third reason many modern cars look alike is that car manufacturers package their cars to meet a narrow set of specifications. Before designers start sketching out a vehicle’s design, the packaging department gives them specifications to which they must adhere. Besides fuel economy, this includes things like safety requirements and space for passengers and cargo. With these narrow specs, there are limits to how unique a car design can be.

Additionally, most car manufacturers use the same vehicle platform for multiple models in their vehicle lines. They do this to reduce production costs and maximize profits. Also, some automakers sell similar vehicles but under different brands, such as GM with the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain.

Modern cars look alike because designers have less freedom than in the past

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In the past, car designers had much more freedom than today. They had fewer constraints placed on them, and because of this, they could focus more on the design. With greater freedom, designers could push the boundaries of automotive design and create uniquely styled cars.

However, with modern cars, many people are involved in the decision-making process for vehicle design, with less autonomy for individual designers. With all the other spec restrictions, this results in cars that look alike.

Although the general design of the body of many modern cars is similar, they differ from each other in the grille. We explore this phenomenon in more detail in our article “Why do car grilles get so big”, which you can read below.

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