I think it was about 2008 that I looked around the local auto show and realized a particular design feature that I dislike had reached ubiquity. It started a few years prior to that, but had slowly ramped up to be on every front corner, around every fog light, and running the length of the bottom of every fascia.
Fake vents. Everywhere.
How did they get there? Was it just lazy design, or was there a bevy of consumers looking through JC Whitney and saying “I just wish this crap came from the factory.”
They’re unnecessary, but that isn’t what makes them objectionable. Their real offense is their dishonesty. They imply a brake duct for nonexistent brake cooling, or a lower vent for an intercooler that isn’t there.
They are injection molded lies.
I’m not lamenting all fake vents. I understand the desire to have a grille at the front that is visually bigger than what is needed for cooling. The opening looks big, but up close some of the little diamonds are closed. Fine, a little white lie, like those shirts that have an extra collar sewn on the inside so it looks like you’re wearing two shirts.
Recently it has been taken to a level that my thesaurus says is unconscionable. The new Supra has eight of them, and that’s not even counting the fake portions of the front cooling vents. The current Honda Civic is 80% fake vent by surface area; so much so that I have a hard time thinking that won’t look absurd in the future.
However, I believe that this trend has seen its peak and is on the decline. First off, we don’t really have anywhere else we can go but down. Will the next Supra have 14 fake vents? Can you imagine the next generation Civic with bigger vents? They would start to run into each other, creating a car that is nothing but one large fake vent. The fake vents would take over real vents causing a thermal management catastrophe. It’s unsustainable.
Second, the reverse trend is already starting; The new Ford Mustang has two grills, two vents on the side of the fascia, and two on the hood. And they’re all functional! All of them direct air from one place to another. The new Corvette has several large vents all over the car and they all appear to have some function.
The fake vent is one of those things that comes out of a compromised car where the designers hand off their baby to the engineers who muck it all up with “aerodynamic efficiency” and “cost reduction” and “we don’t actually need four square meters of cooling area.” It has become so common that it will almost certainly be one of those things that dates a car to the twenty-teens, and that will make it impossible for designers to use in the future.
Hold on friends; we’re at the beginning of the end. I’m confident that a few short years from now I will be walking around the auto show, relishing the lack of fake vents. Also probably bemoaning whatever new lazy design fad has taken over. Fake headlights? Fake engine covers so your electric motor looks like a V12? So help me god, if you bring back faux woodgrain vinyl I’m setting the conference hall on fire.