I remember when the fender vent made a comeback. The first car that I remember doing its part to return the fender vent to prominence was the BMW Z8, which came out back in 2000. But things didn’t really catch on for a couple years after that, when BMW started bringing back the fender vent on other models, like the E46 M3 and E60 M5. Aston Martin also did it. The 2003 Range Rover did it. Then Buick did it, going back to its days of "port holes" that gave away how expensive of a Buick you got. Then they all did it.
In fact, it was worse than that: Not only did fender vents become a massive trend that everyone copied, but the concept of "stick-on" fender vents, where you could buy fake fender vents and simply place them on your car to make it look cooler, also became a trend. Stick-on fender vents had, somehow, even less purpose than actual fender vents; in fact, these stick-on vents weren’t "vents" at all, but rather were merely decals that looked like vents. Times were crazy.
Over the last year or two, however, I’ve noticed that the fender vent is in decline. Many new luxury vehicles are now coming out without even a whiff of fender vent, which would’ve been considered unthinkable a decade ago: The newest Volvo models don’t have them, for instance, and neither does the Alfa Romeo Giulia, the Lexus LC, the Porsche Cayenne and a few other new models trying to sway shoppers with their designs.
Other vehicles have toned them down. The new Lincoln Navigator has a fender adornment, but it’s a written piece that says "NAVIGATOR," rather than a vent. The M5’s vent has grown smaller. The Range Rover will only give you a painted vent if you want one; otherwise, it’s body-colored and almost invisible.
And then there’s the stick-on fender vents. That craze, which lasted for a few years, seems to have died off: It appears the fender vent no longer seems cool enough for you to want to buy fake fender vents and tack them on your cars. I’m sure a few people are still doing it, but I never see it anymore.
And so, it appears the fender vent is going away — and in cases where it is staying, it now seems to be used as a nice design element that allows automakers to add a character line down the side of a vehicle, like in the Porsche Panamera or the Bentley Bentayga. In other words, it’s no longer just a random hole plucked down in the middle of the fender, with no apparent purpose.
So maybe it’s better to say that the fender vent is dying in some cases and evolving in others. But either way, it’s no longer the weird craze it once was — and I think we can all be happy about that.