Renault Argos and the Top Gear Generation

Car of the Day #18: Renault Argos

Renault Argos and the Top Gear Generation
• via Renault

I don’t expect you to watch a 1h15m video essay about Drake and the Death of Hip Hop…but you should.

One particular passage near the end of F.D Signifier’s 2022 video essay has stuck with me for months now, and I can’t help but see the connections to the rapid changes in the car world. Emphasis mine:

“…I feel like that is on my generation of hip-hop fans that we gate kept all the wrong things. Drake’s fame and ubiquity and prominence in hip-hop is really just meant to remind those of us from the golden era of how much we've allowed things to change and what we've lost in the process.
“That sting we feel when the youth show no regard for our legends—that's not their fault, that's our fault and Drake is our reminder we have a bad habit in my age range […] of blaming the youth for the way they are maneuvering a reality that we designed without their input — and we need to own that.
“In the end, Drake isn't the person that destroyed hip hop, we are. And Drake is our punishment, our permanent reminder that we are the ones that let it be destroyed.

Wanna see a magic trick? Re-read the above, replacing hip hop with “car” or “car culture”, and swap Drake for “Tesla”.

Now that I have your attention, let’s get into this.

We — the “Top Gear Generation” of car enthusiasts, engineers, designers, and executives — spent much of the 2000s rallying against highly specific technologies, including ESP, BMW iDrive, auto start/stop, hybrids (and later, EVs), while ignoring the societal and environmental impacts of cars as a whole. 

Tesla products are far from perfect, but the door was wide open for it to make a tremendous impact by selling a different solution, all the while collecting and monetizing as much data as possible.

I think one of the reasons we’re seeing more visible cracks in traditional automakers’ armor is because a great majority — not all, but a majority — are still trapped in outdated product thinking that served them well up until maybe 10, 15 years ago.

Frustratingly, we can’t direct our ire to specific departments or even people — design and engineering teams that habitually neglect to consider end users are just as guilty as the executives who cancel small car projects and loudly declare at shows like CES that AI-powered software will revolutionize cars.

It might! But do I see VW, Ford, General Motors, etc. as the experts leading us to a promised land of free-flowing road networks and digital concierge software good enough to date long-term? Of course not. That’s just the digital, software side of things. But can they still make decent cars?

With little weather protection afforded by a light and pure driving experience, drivers would have no choice but to process vibrant inputs to their senses. 
Renault Argos styling mock-up • via Renault

What does all of this have to do with the Renault Argos? We need to reset our palettes, just as Renault did at the time.