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American cars designed more for drinking Starbucks coffee than smoking

The first time I had to Americanize and federalize an auto interior designed in Europe, it was obvious that Europeans prefer to smoke inside their cars, while Americans prefer to drink and eat in their cars. European automobiles tend to have ash trays and lighters, but no cup holders.

With every marketing problem, though, there has to be a rational design solution. Fact is, cup holders are such a big deal in the design of American cars.

Another marketing fact is, nobody is in the same mood when they get up in the morning, but it is clear that coffee plays an important role in getting America through the morning commute. Sure, a cup may be filled with Coke, Pepsi or lemonade in the back with the kids, but soccer moms and commuting dads have usually coffee in the front.

Even companies like Starbucks recognize and meet the need by providing high-quality, great-tasting coffee, while the automakers provide the place holders.

A recent program on the History Channel was quite revealing about America’s love affair with coffee, not to mention how Starbucks came about because other coffee companies started to cheap out with lesser grades. As with cars, you get what you pay for. Nonetheless, it’s the caffeine that helps keep us awake; not a bad idea when driving car on long trips at night.

Truth is, engineers need coffee, too, just to have the morning stamina to design and integrate those cup holders. You have no idea how passionate people become when you ask them to move their parts to make room for a cup holder. Words often get heated more than the coffee.

Lunch was no better. I recall being late getting back from lunch, because JJ, a designer friend, just had to get his supply of coffee from the Starbuck’s store.

So, the next time you place your hot coffee in that cup holder, just remember that some designer went through great pains to fight on your behalf and to make that cup holder available for you.