I had an interesting conversation with my parents last night in which they protested the design of the Apple car, decrying the garish orange paint and a design that made it look "like a Russian car from the 1950s." I like to think that I'm more or less up to speed on the rumor mill — certainly more than my parents, who are not in the business of breaking news — but I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.
Slowly, it dawned on me: the local news in Detroit (where they live) must have shown a picture of the Ford 021C, a concept car from 1999 that had been designed by Marc Newson — a man who is now in Apple's employ. Ergo, I guess the connection is being made that the 021C gives us a good idea of what the Apple car could look like.
Car designers don't make the same car over and over
A million times: no. We don't know Newson's involvement with the car project, and we still don't have a good handle on exactly what kind of transportation device Apple is making (WSJ says the current design "resembles a minivan," after all). But most importantly, designers — particularly car designers — don't tend to design the same thing over and over again; sometimes there are cues shared between models, but rarely more.* Suggesting that the 021C gives even the smallest hint of what the Apple car might be does a disservice to Ford, to Apple, and to Newson.
To illustrate my point, let's take a look at a few well-known designers and the cars they've helped conceptualize. You'll notice that they're... shall we say, very different from one another.
*There are exceptions to this rule — I'd argue Henrik Fisker has made the same car a few times.
Walter de Silva
Lamborghini Egoista (left) and Volkswagen Golf (right).
Audi Avus (left) and Ford Freestyle (right).
Acura NSX (left) and Acura ZDX (right).
Franz von Holzhausen
Tesla Model S (left) and Pontiac Solstice (right).
Ford GT (left) and FAB 1 from the 2004 film Thunderbirds (right).