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Published on December 15th, 2012 | by Jo Borras

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Rinspeed Thinks THIS is the Future of Cars – It's Not

This is Rinspeed’s latest concept car – a small, stand-up cube with plenty of room to move around, carry your things, and (let’s face it) have dirrty sex in. Rinspeed CEO, Frank M. Rinderknecht, believes it’s the future of cars.

Is Frank right?

Ignore the car, for a moment (Chris did a solid review of the thing a few days ago, anyway), and just consider the automotive context for a moment.

Consider that GM is pulling out all the stops to find a way to get America’s youth (circa 2012) interested in cars. Not just its own cars, mind you, but cars “in general”. Other carmakers are in the same boat, leading to desperate comparisons to smartphones, “Joe Camel” quality age-pandering, and a massive push towards convergence of automobile and personal computer.

This, though? This MicroMAX minivan should be the opposite of pandering, being exactly what Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky says Gen-Y is asking for. It’s the size of a new Mini (which isn’t that mini), and fits between 4 and 6 passengers in a UPS-style semi-standing position. It should be easy to park, too, what with all those windows and clear sight-lines.

Here’s the problem, though: only baby-boomers will buy this.

Why do I think that? I look at the last few attempts from major automakers to make something like this – it’s not a new idea, after all – and I see rabid packs of blue-hairs lining up in droves to buy them. The Honda Element, Nissan Cube, and Scion tB, for example, all followed the same (short-length/tall height + adjustable interior) formula to reach out to America’s hip/trendy youth market … and the people who bought them? My aunt and uncle (well into their 60s). Their neighbors. My dad, who bought one for my sister as a graduation gift because, honestly, he bought into the marketing – and that, dear reader, is precisely the problem.

These aren’t the cars Gen-Y is asking for, these are the cars that a bunch of aging baby-boomers think kids want. They don’t really understand a youth that’s 2 or 3 generations removed from them, at this point, and that came of age in a credit-driven recession that saw many of their parents lose savings, pensions, homes, and (you guessed it) cars.

Sorry, grandpa, but new cars aren’t cool. New cars are trouble with a capital “T”, and until you grasp THAT idea, you’ll never know how to sell to Gen-Y.

We’ll see what the motoring world thinks of Frank’s latest when it’s officially unveiled at the next Geneva Motor Show. As for whether or not I’m right, try to find a clean BMW E30 or rear-drive Volvo Wagon for sale and see what those things are going for these days.

Source: Rinspeed, via TechVehi.




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About the Author

I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the Important Media network. You can find me on Twitter, Skype (jo.borras) or Google+.



  • Tem

    Good insight. I’m agree with your points. There’s a large disconnect between the generations. There seem to be fewer nostalgic muscle car kids in Gen Y, at least in my town. Their are a few big truck hold outs, however they actually do need the towing and cargo more frequently than I do.
    These guys can’t afford to own a car too and really don’t drive much any way. But that’s a special case group.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      I’m not sure it’s a question of money. I’m in my 30s, and my wife is in her mid/late 20s. We hang out with doctors, attorneys, accountants – young professionals, in other words. The people that would have been called “yuppies” in the 80s. Many of them don’t own cars, don’t know about cars, and don’t want cars – despite their six-figure incomes. As for muscle-car nostalgia, you can’t have nostalgia about something you weren’t there for.

  • http://gravatar.com/schanley Steve Hanley

    I think you have totally missed the point. This is NOT a vehicle for people of any age to purchase. It is a transportation module to provide mobility from place to place for people who own no car at all and live in urban areas. Think of it as an elevator that moves laterally rather than vertically.

    Summon one on your SmartPhone and it arrives at your location, ready, willing and able to take you where you need to go, whether it’s Bloomingdales or JFK airport. It is public transportation that doesn’t require you to share the experience with dozens of others. You don’t own it. You rent it for a short period of time to go short distances within a strictly limited area. It’s a ZipCar with a narrower focus.

    Now take the human driver out of the equation and make it completely electronically controlled. The technology is just becoming available now, but it will expand rapidly and be fully viable in the next few years. Now you have a way of moving people around a city conveniently with a modicum of privacy without building new subways and other mass transit systems.

    I think it’s brilliant. But the only owners will be urban transportation networks. Rinspeed has no intention of selling these to private owners. Which makes your argument is irrelevant.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Rinspeed has always been about abstract ideas that NO ONE will ever buy (except me, I would buy the Rinspeed Yello Talbo). That said, you miss my point: this is exactly the car that ‘boomers think Gen Y (the “kids” behind me, I should add) will want, but they’ve always pulled back the “punch” at the last minute (witness: the Honda Element’s re-branding as the perfect car for dog people, near the end). We will see how much they care about it at Geneva.

    • senior

      I certainly agree with Steve that Jo has partly missed the point of this vehicle. This article really reminds me of the early 1980s where people in the environmental movement tended to criticize each others’ ideas/proposals because they weren’t perfect or complete solutions. It reflects the use of absolute language – only one interpretation or one right answer – together without a full understanding of what it takes to create a change in public attitudes and how to facilitate a transition.

  • http://gravatar.com/sheckyvegas sheckyvegas

    No, the problem is these young punks keep stepping on my lawn.

    HEY, YOU! GIT AWAY FROM THAT THERE HYDRANGIA!

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Amen, brother.

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