Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of controversy about the new "corporate grille" in Lexus models — also known as the "Spindle Grille" or, to those who are a little less charitable, the "Predator Grille," after a famous science-fiction movie creature.
The hubbub should surprise no one. Lexus has aggressively pursued the adoption of a corporate grille, even grafting it onto models where it certainly doesn’t fit, in an effort to make all of its vehicles look similar from the front — and easily identifiable as a Lexus. And while Lexus is certainly doing this more obsessively than any other automaker, they aren’t the only ones following this trend. Ever since the twin kidney grilles became a universal symbol that you were looking at a BMW, every car company has wanted the same recognition.
But it doesn’t always work out.
While some brands have built decent corporate grilles that are reasonably identifiable and relatively unobtrusive (Kia, Ford), others have tried and failed miserably. Here are my three favorite corporate grille failures from the last decade or so.
Ahh, yes, the Acura beak. Was there ever a time when it was clearer that an automaker simply didn’t have any idea how its design would be perceived than back when Acura launched its beak? I’m not exactly sure when the "beak" first came out, but its first especially egregious appearance was on the 2009 TL — and the nose was mercilessly mocked for its excessive use of shiny silver in combination with its odd similarity to a bird beak. Acura dialed back the beak by 2012, and today’s more restrained version looks pretty good — and pretty distinctive. Find an Acura for sale
The Nissan Tooth
Nissan’s "tooth" grille was a cheap attempt to get a corporate grille without having to do much work. In order to create it, Nissan took its standard vehicle grille and added a little gray strip down the middle that housed the Nissan badge — giving its vehicles the appearance of having one single "tooth." Although the grille made it to several Nissan models, including the Sentra and the Maxima, it was so reviled that Nissan ditched it quickly. When the 2004 Maxima was facelifted in 2007, for instance, the car still carried the parts for the tooth grille — but Nissan replaced the "tooth" section with a standard black grille, so it no longer stuck out. Find a Nissan for sale
Subaru Flying Grille
Maybe the worst corporate grille decision in modern memory came when Subaru launched its "flying grille." Famously adopted on the B9 Tribeca but also facelifted into later versions of the 2002-2007 Impreza (specifically in 2006 and 2007), the grille featured a normal, regular grille in the middle, flanked by two other smaller grilles that looked like wings. This decision was widely panned immediately after launch, and Subaru backed away quickly: The flying grille only made its way into the 2006 and 2007 B9 Tribeca and Impreza before it was ditched. The Tribeca was updated in 2008 with a new look, but the damage to the car’s reputation was done — and sales were weak. Find a Subaru for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.