Every few years, some kind of design element seems to take over the automotive industry. While this design proliferation can be good, often automakers copy design elements from high-performance cars in an attempt to spice things up on an otherwise boring model. The result? Fake design elements that have no real purpose whatsoever.

Once you start looking out for these, you see more and more of them. Many are grounded in some kind of logical thought process, but once the idea spreads, it seems to move like an infection, spreading across manufacturers. Certain elements don’t work on every model. We’ve outlined a few of these fake and otherwise dumb design elements below.

Non-Functioning Fender Vents

design element

The fender vent craze is still going strong for some automakers. While there are legitimate needs for fender vents in some high-performance vehicles, on your everyday car, they do absolutely nothing other than look silly. Automakers must have thought the performance vehicle association with fender air vents would make people think these boring commuter vehicles are more exciting than they actually are. The Ford Taurus is a prime example of a car that has a fake fender vent. Upon close inspection of the “vent”, you’ll see that it’s simply a plastic piece Ford stuck to the side of the car. It’s not even really a vent. The Taurus isn’t the only offender, but it’s one of the worst.

Useless Flat-Bottom Steering Wheels

flat bottom steering wheel

The flat-bottom steering wheel has its legitimate uses in high-performance cars, but on your everyday commuter car it’s totally out of place, and that makes it absolutely ridiculous in the Hyundai Ioniq, which is photographed above. The Ionic is a car built for efficiency, not tearing up race tracks, so ditch the flat-bottom steering wheel, Hyundai. The Ioniq isn’t the only offender here. Everything from a Kia Optima to a VW Beetle has a flat bottom steering wheel now, and it has nothing to do with performance.

Wannabe Skid Plates


Skid plates can be an important part of an automobile that’s designed to go off the beaten path. A skid plate can protect vital parts under the vehicle from unnecessary damage due to debris or rocks. However, we’ve noticed a number of vehicles with cheap, wimpy skid plates out there.

The Toyota 4Runner is a vehicle that can certainly handle off-road situations, but we're not sure its skid plate is up to the task. It appears to be more for show than anything. The TRD version of the 4Runner certainly has a beefy skidplate, but the standard SUV doesn't seem to have much there. If you pay attention, you'll see wimpy or even fake skidplates on most SUVs. This is probably because few people actually take their vehicles off-road.

Faux Rear Diffusers

kia koup

A rear diffuser is designed to help direct airflow under the car. This is most important for high-performance cars, but you’ve probably seen faux diffusers on a variety of commuter cars, including the Kia Forte Koup pictured above. On cars like that, the rear diffuser does nothing, and it's just there to spruce up the rear end. It’s another example of automakers taking something from the performance-car world and slapping it on an everyday car for the cool factor.

Non-Functioning Hood Scoops

Mini Cooper S

When needed, hood scoops add an aggressive styling element and hint at the performance potential of a car. However, a car that doesn’t need a hood scoop shouldn’t have one. They often get added because people like the way they look, but if it does nothing, there’s no point in having it. A hood scoop is designed to improve air intake by pulling in more cool air to the engine. This is especially important when a car has a cold air intake, turbos, or a supercharger. However, without the need to get more air to the engine, we think automakers should eliminate the hood scoop.

Faux Carbon Fiber Trim

faux carbon fiber

Automakers seem to be obsessed with the idea of carbon fiber, which we’re more than happy with when it's real. What we object to is when they create some ugly plastic that kind of looks like carbon fiber and try to trick people into thinking it's legitimate. It’s obviously not, and automakers could come up with something better. Real carbon fiber is usually easy to spot, and most of the fake stuff looks horrible. We’d rather see some soft touch material or some honest plastic pieces instead of faux carbon fiber.