June 16, 2005
In a recent interview, Don Norman warns of the perils of design by committee:
You don't do good software design by committee. You do it best by having a dictator. From the user's point of view, you must have a coherent design philosophy, and I don't see how that could come about from open source software. The person who's done it best is Steve Jobs, and he's well-known for being a tyrant.
Nowhere are those perils illustrated better than in this cautionary tale from General Motors:
In the mid-1990s, then-General Motors Corp. Chairman John G. Smale decided to bring the world's biggest automaker a dose of the give-the-people-what-they-want ethic that had animated Smale's old company, Procter & Gamble Co. And what the people wanted was sexy, edgy and a bit off-key; in short, a head-turner. General Motors' culture took over from there. Design would be by committee, the focus groups extensive. And production would have to stick to a tight budget, with all that sex appeal packed onto an existing minivan platform. The result rolled off the assembly line in 2000: the Pontiac Aztek, considered by many to be one of the ugliest cars produced in decades and a flop from Day One.
What's worse, the Aztek was actually a good idea at the right time. It was killed by poor execution:
The Aztek represented all that is wrong with GM's design process, that official said. The concept car actually did something few GM designs do: arrive before a trend -- this time, the crossover SUV that combines the attributes of a truck and a passenger car. And GM had high hopes to sell 50,000 to 70,000 Azteks a year, establishing Pontiac on the cutting edge.
Then came production, the executive said. The penny-pinchers demanded that costs be kept low by putting the concept car on an existing minivan platform. That destroyed the original proportions and produced the vehicle's bizarre, pushed-up back end. But the designers kept telling themselves it was good enough. "By the time it was done, it came out as this horrible, least-common-denominator vehicle where everyone said, 'How could you put that on the road?'" the official said.
Sales never reached the 30,000 level needed to make money on the Aztek, so it abruptly went out of production last year. The tongue-in-cheek hosts of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" named it the ugliest car of 2005. "It looks the way Montezuma's revenge feels," one listener quipped.
The Pontiac Aztek is such an egregious case of compromised design that it is referenced multiple times in Steve McConnell's Code Complete 2:
Maybe you think the Pontiac Aztek was the greatest car ever made, belong to the Flat Earth Society, and make a pilgrimage to the alien landing site at Roswell, New Mexico, every four years. If you do, go ahead and believe that requirements won't change on your projects. (p.40)
If we didn't know about geometric shapes like circles, squares, and triangles, for example, we might come up with more unusual shapes like squash shape, rutabaga shape, and Pontiac Aztek shape. (p.152)
This technique is useful about as often as you find someone who would rather have a used Pontiac Aztek than a new Corvette. (p. 365)
I was intrigued by the number of times the Aztek was referenced in the book-- three times is not a coincidence. And at least one international reader was a little miffed since he had no idea what the Pontiac Aztek was:
Another thing I didn't appreciate is the use of a few American comparisons and references. I presume the book is written for an international audience, in which case such culture-specific idioms should be avoided. The Pontiac Aztek is featured quite prominently (never having seen one, nor being aware of its reputation, I have no idea whether the choice for that particular car has any meaning, be it positive or negative). I also remember at least one reference to some sports terminology which is obsure to most non-Americans, probably baseball-related. [..] Only four stars due to the superficial discussion of some interesting topics and the Pontiac Aztek references.
The Aztek is uniquely American. And too often, so is the least common denominator result of design by committee.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
What a joy reading this page. My ex talked me into getting an Aztek, and I still remember the thoughts going through my head when she asked if I wanted the Aztek or the Camry when we got divorced. Needless to say, much effort was used holding back the hysterical laughter. Needless to say, the Aztek through a piston during the divorce. I think the words I used when she asked if we could get one was, Dear God Why?.
Thank you Aztek for making Pontiac go into oblivion!
The 2001 Aztek I own is the worst car I have ever had, and at 59 yrs old I have had a few cars. If I knew then what I know now about this vehicle I never would have bought it. Waaaay too many gremlins possess this vehicle....I have experienced them all. I have just learned to live with them and deal with the idiosyncracies which I have had to communicate to my family members who have had to drive it. My wife hates it and sticks to our 2002 Kia Sedona (which is another story altogether. I must be a real glutton for punishment to buy two first year vehicles back to back). From the looks of the posts here it appears that alot of people have been fortunate and haven't experienced the problems that are common to this vehicle, but to see the amount of complaints it is obvious that this SRV has been poorly designed in a lot of ways. All I can say is it is too bad President Obama doesn't bail out all of the unfortunate consumers who have been stuck with this inferior product. GM (Gross Mismanagement) should be embarrassed.
Anyone who buys an Aztek should get a voucher for the optician.
There is nothing good about this piece of garbage and Pontiac has finally paid the price for its sin
Why does it seem that the only people here who have bad comments about the Aztek are people who have never used one. I love mine, and sure there were a few things that have needed to be fixed, but they were minor, and it is 8 years old now. I think that anyone who hasn't actually used one shouldn't comment on something that they don't know.
I have owned my Aztek since 2004. I bought a 2001 with 61,000kms on it. I have kept up with regular maintanance and used the most expensive parts you can get for anything that gets replaced, as a result,I have never been stranded in this vehicle. I travelled from Terrace BC, Canada, to Las Vegas, Nevada, USA in this vehicle and I would do it again. With the same vehicle. If I could buy another one I would. However I still use the one I have and I don't intend to get rid of it anytime soon. So far it is still in good running condition. What hooks you about the vehicle is the drive and the ride. It is an awesome feeling to drive the Aztek, I would recommend to people who haven't tried it, don't know it till you've tried it. Travel wise, it is awesome, lots of leg room and space, even if you travel with a full load and 5 passengers. Did this from Saskatchewan to British Columbia. Most people I know think it is built like a grizly bear. It is too Kewl. I love my Aztek and it really doesn't matter what anybody else thinks about the vehicle,it fits me!! I don't think it's ugly either. Mine looks pretty damn snazzy with me in it.
My parents bought a 2003 Aztek back when it was new, and we've never had a problem with it. No it's not pretty, but function is more important than fashion. I learned how to drive in it, the seats are comfortable, it has plenty of room,the suunroof is a great addition, the tent that attaches to the back is awesome,and it doesn't consume gas quickly like Hummers do. Today I'm seventeen,and the Aztek is now mine! I can actually afford to pay gas for the Aztec, and even the guys at school love having a ride in it. I hope it will benifit me for a long time.
I have an 2005 Kentucy Blue Aztec, and I Love, love, love it.It's roomy, rides great, easy to spot in a crowded parking lot. Dont knock it till you ride in it. Best car I've ever owned. I'll keep it forever. Nancy
i own a 2002 pontiac Aztek,i have nothing but praise for the vehicle, mine is as loaded as they came back then,leather/heated seats,10 speaker stereo, driver and passanger air controls, heads-up display,its the only suv crossover that if packed right can handle luggage for five (5) people going on a cruise or trip of 1,500 miles or more and everyone is in comfort,i get 23.9- 24.5 mpg on the highway, oh did i saw that it'S ALL WHEEL DRIVE VERSATRAK IT'S NEVER LET ME DOWN.its not perfect but i love what it does for me, so all you haters keep hating it's not Gm it's you for wanting to be main stream DARE TO BE DIFFERENT YOU MIGHT LIKE IT.OH AT 165.000 MILES still quiet and peppy and if i could find an 05 with the same equipment i would buy it.it will stay with me awhile.ERROL
I'd like to buy one, set it up at the state fair, and charge people $1 to throw tomatoes at it. I think I'd be able to retire after the first time I did it.
I cant believe a great article like this has devolved into a masturbatory circle-jerk about one of the ugliest cars in decades (since mid-80's!).
Please people stop...your P.O.S. box-on-wheels deserved to die a quick death instead of a slow painful one. I'm glad the parent company has finally died so there is no more ridiculous business/design decisions coming from Pontiac. Good riddance.
The people who hate the Aztek are the same putz yuppies that think a ford escort is sports car, and a boring ass honda civic is creative body styling.
I don't own an Aztec, but I think this is a classic case of people who look for substance or style. The Aztec haters are the people who only care about style.
The fourth reference of Steve McConnell is on the 24th page of the book. I also prefer function over style, but some nice design doesn't hurt though.
I rolled my aztek off the lot for $15,999. and 7 miles on it. I,ve kept it up on oil, fluids and such, and it has given me great milage 28-30mpg, and it has 135,000 on it. I,ve run it from San Francisco to Oklahoma city 9 times and the camping package works great. I added the tow option and moon roof after market, a great thing. My only problem now is the cop-out of G.M. not to support the model after 2010.
My only gripes are the God Awful wind noise, and the price of plastic replacement parts! Looks like I'll have to buy a couple wrecks for spare parts...Lucky I live in Oklahoma, there's one around every corner, in every color. I love my aztek!
I love my Aztek. I like to joke that it's "Quite possibly, the ugliest vehicle on the planet." But that's actually not true. The Mercedes G-Class, Toyota Scion, and (looking to the past) AMC Gremlin are all a lot uglier. If you don't think so, you're probably reading this in braille.
If you think it's ugly, all the better. I like to think of it's unique styling as a built-in theft deterrent system.
But I didn't buy my Aztek because it was beautiful, I bought it because it does everything I need a vehicle to do and it does it really well. For something it's size it gets great gas milage. The interior is comfortable, and well designed. It's got good acceleration, and handles well. For something minivan sized, it drives more like a car.
I've used my Tek to haul amazing amounts of stuff. I've taken it camping (the camping package is awesome). I've taken long trips with it. It's never let me down.
I think the Aztek was a case of the right design at the wrong time. I applaud Pontiac for creating something new. The world doesn't need another Honda Civic or Toyota Camry clone.
I am so glad the aztek is dead along with every other pontiac!!!
the aztek is the biggest piece of crap ever made!!!! they have continual wheel bearing problems, intake and head gasket problems, and caliper problems... the calipers have plastic pistons!!! JUNK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my sister and brother in law have a 2002. it was a nice car until 65,000 miles. then everything went!!!!
and i know your saying was it taken care of? ofcourse ..oil changes every 3k. lube, tune ups, u name it!!! and so far the wheel bearings have been replaced 3 times, the calipers twice, the intake gasket 3 times, the heads , and now the trans!!! it also has had electrical problems , dash lights, oil senser light, fuel gauge, lighter..... what a piece of CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!! if you have one, get rid of it!!! if you want to get one, dont!!!!!! trust me!!!
C'mon...if "they" said it was a good looking vehicle, then we'd think so too! There are some ugly cars out there...and apparently they were marketed better..so our view of them is different...fact of the matter is folks...they are all just cars! I'd rather purchase "the ugliest car ever" and know that it's bad rap is only based on its looks and not something that compromises safety! So far it seems to have everything...room, good mpg, comfort, excellent safety rating and major versatility! And if you buy used you're getting an excellent deal. They're priced low because people think their ugly! People want to spend more money on a nicer car with more mileage! Not me! Who cares if the Aztek has an ugly butt...what's up with all the clown cars on the road today????
"I haven't seen a Pontiac Aztec on the side of the road yet."
-- sheri on April 20, 2009 11:49 AM
Maybe that's because they go right to the crusher.
Azteks have all the styling flair of a trash truck!
Aztek and Edsel: The comparisons begin with bad 5-letter names.
Hmmm. Based on the above comments, maybe Don Norman and Steve McConnell should abandon the software coding business. Looks like the functional design overrides the opinions of a few disgruntled design junkies.
If you're suggesting that "ugly" equals worthless, then why stop with the Aztek. Here's some more "ugly" things that should have been eliminated right away, ambulances, fire trucks, Abe Lincoln, the statue of liberty, open heart surgery, Winston Churchill, capitalism, the dollar bill, hiking boots, the flounder, Johnny Cash, Einstien, the loom, and the printing press.
As we all know, "super" models cured polio, invented the lightbulb, and brought down the Berlin wall. Thanks goodness for them. I'm now going to rush out and pay over a thousand dollars to sit near the front at a football game. Look at me.
The design of the Aztek is more of an indoctment of "Design modification by accountants" than one of "design by committee". Basically, the specifications were developed by marketing, and the concept prototype was noticably sleeker, anr rounded of than the production model. But what really killed the product was the cost cutting modifications used to lower the production costs.
The original design was an expensive one, and the targeted market wasn't to pay the price need for a no-compromised version. The cost reducing design changes, however, resulted in a shift from an exotic cutting edge utility vehicle to a funky, boxy appearance that I like to describe as the "Evil offspring of a mating between a Hummer and a Honda CRX".
I own one (with over 150,000 miles on it and no major problems) and obviously I didn't buy it for it's looks, but for the practial versatility it provides. And while it doesn't sport the sleek sexy lines of a Hummer, a Jeep or a Land Rover, it combines many of the advantages of an SUB with those of a minivan and a station wagon.
But to the point of the original post.
The open source methodology is not "Design by Committee". It could better be described as "Development though competition". Most open sours software begins with a single person who designs and develops a prototypical application to address a specific problem. and makes the source available so that anyone who has the skills and inclination to improve, enhance or extened the original code. To be officially included in an update version of the application, however, the changes must be approved by the maintainer of the application(usually the originall designer). As a result, the maintainer may get many suggestions and actual courcew patches that address the same feature and must choose the one that best fits the overall vision of the designed. The is quite unlike most proprietary development models where the coder m ay compete for a position, but the code itself is not part of the contest.
The OSS methodology competes for quality, not for money or to meet a deadline. In proprietary software, often a bit of code will be incorporated to meet a production deadline, when a better, more efficient and robust design will be dropped because it might not be do-able by the deadline.
Open source has another advantage. As any coder will tell you, each of us (I've been programming for many years) likes to stick with what we know. We develop a "mental toolbox" of algorithms the each of us favor. When a programmer is assigned a task that doesn't match his skill set, He will either try to learn as he goes, or try to apply what he is comfortable with to a problem that could be better addressed with a different algorithm. In the case of open source, the programmers can pick and choose the tasks that they are most comfortable and competent at.
This is not to say that all open source software is well designed. In particular, When formerly proprietary software source is opened, it has already been mangled by the innefficiency of the proprietary development methods.
For some reason, I'm reminded of this: a href="http://www.snpp.com/episodes/7F16.html"http://www.snpp.com/episodes/7F16.html/a
I was reading through the comments on this post as it showed up under the "Recent Comments" section. I just though the post by Doug was hilarious:
"Love my Aztek. MPG, roomy, very comfy front seats, just enough power and a great discount. Like it so much even bought his "big sister", the Rendezvous, for my wife.
Best of all my girlfriend loves the camping package for our little "get togethers" in secluded areas as she calls it affectionately: "MY Aztek"."
I own an Aztek, and I must say its a sweet ride. I love this car and I couldn't be more happy with it. The people who say this car sucks are the ones to have uglier cars then the Aztek, not saying that the Aztek is ugly at all, its awesome. But when they say its the ugliest car ever they must be driving a Geo or a Sicon thingy.
Forgot to add for J.O., I own a 02' yellow aztek with 139,910 miles exactly and just replaced the brakes, runs without any problems and just as zippy as the day I bought it.
In the last year, my Aztec (2004 Black Rally addition) has traveled from coast to coast. From the beaches of South Carolina, over the Colorado Rockies, and through Oregon's beautiful Columbia Gorge my Aztek handled perfectly. What an incredible roadtrip and I was actually moving from east coast to west coast in the process. Thanks to the roomie cargo space, I was able to pack a good portion of personal items. I didn't have to rent a UHAUL...which could have been a huge fiasco! It is important to find a car that fits with your lifestyle, personality, and budget. For me, the Aztek has been great and in the future if I do experience problems with it, it will be okay, knowing what it has carried me through in the past. My back window is covered in stickers from my different adventures across the US...which i really love and just adds another element of my personality.I say to each his own... just get out there and enjoy life!
I want a HUD in my car, but I wanna plug my laptop into and tweak it A LOT.
Its an good idea to gather all the good points of view before you start to design something. But when you start designing, you have to choose what you are designing. For example you cannot get a car that is a small roadster _and_ Hummer. Aztek is some kind of combination from smaller and bigger car, but it looks like a big smaller car, not like a mature SUV. It looks like a big child.
That Pontiac Aztek looks really stupid and ugly car to me. But ugly can be ok, when its cool too. Like there are many people who would like Aztek design, but not implemented like in the Pontiac Aztek.
It would be good to go to a another poll round after the final design is ready. You got the initial design ideas and made your combination. Now you should ask, does everyone like the result.
I owned the first Aztek in 2000. I think maybe in Houston I was one of the first to own the car. I would have people pass me, give me thumbs up, one lady stop at my home and ask me what kind of car was this. I know I got at least 15 to 20 recognitions of my new 2000 Pontiac Aztek. Due to some unforeseen health problems I lost my Aztek and my home. I said, if I ever had the chance to own a new car again, it would be the Pontiac Aztek. You could live in this car. I LOVE IT. Prior to my misfortune I always owned a Pontiac every two years. I commuted 116 miles a day to work and my Pontiac's never gave Sme trouble. PONTIAC IS THE CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!INCERELY, THANK YOU, AND GOD IS IN CONTROL. SHARON
I think that Honda Element looks even worse, but I still don't like how the Pontiac Aztek looks like.
For example here is a car that doesn't look bad to me, Jaguar XKR:
I have an 04 Aztek Rally edition. I will admit that when I went to buy a car I was definatly not looking at this. I wanted to get a Ford Esacape but the wife saw this and said she always wanted the Aztek. At that time I thought it was the worst looking car I ever saw and honestly still do. But the ride is smooth, gas mileage is fair, and so far no major problems except for the wheel bearings that was fixed free by Pontiac. I have 80,000 miles on it so far. The only thinks I don't like is the difficulty in doing simple repairs like headlights and air filter changes to time consuming and not difficult but annoying to do.
The very top of this web page makes the most sense! GM was way ahead of the curve with this one. Trying to knock Proctor Gamble strategy just makes you look ignorant. As if PG is some small company on the verge of extinction?! I couldnt believe they put these vehicles on the road in 2000, I thought they were the ugliest things I had ever seen, and frankly they still could be. With that said, go drive one for a week and try to climb back into whatever superior machine it is that you drive. For me, I couldnt do it. I found this website as I search endlessly through the few(allow me to repeat VERY FEW)for sale on the internet, so that i can buy a 2nd AZTEC. (and dont post some BS like "there was only 100,000 made" bc even so there are less than a 100 for sale in the country at any given time) You probably drive a quaint little honda and sleep well at night knowing that you are in the majority. Meanwhile the people who were brave enough to test drive the "ugliest car of 2000" sit back and laugh at what the "majority" is missing out on. Be brave, be different.
The Aztek's sold poorly not only because of the design, but the absolute atrocity called the 3.4L GM power train. Everyone I knew that had one needed a new a/c compressor by 80k miles, needed a new trans by as early as 50k and as late as 120k. I haven't found one person with an original in theres yet. That said. It is loaded with problems, but I still love it. I rebuilt mine at 112k miles. A/C, suspension, engine, trans, replaced some misc. stuff such as airbags, latches, wiring harnesses, computer modules. $3000 to me $9000 to people that would require to pay someone. These are not the best used cars. If you want an Aztek, be prepared to rebuild it if it is nearing 100k. I did have fun doing it. So much in fact, I am going to buy another Aztek already with major problems (so I can get it dirt cheap and not lose $3000 in depreciation when it breaks) and rebuild it. They are great cars with lots of features, they just need to be overhaul'd every 100k miles or so, which really is a shame. These types of power train designs is what killed GM. BTW for all those people that don't know, this is a minivan with the same power train as the Pontiac Montana, and a slightly upgraded power train to all the other 3.4L minivans GM/Olds/Pontiac have pumped out over the years. I owned a 97 silhouette it was lemoned out and then I owned a 98 silhouette and it's engine needed to be replaced because of a cracked block at 40k. GM never improved the design when they decided to throw it into the Aztek. UGH.
If you haven't driven one, don't knock 'em. Read what Brian said on 2/6/2010 - agree whole heartedly. I'm only on this site looking for a console cooler for the 3rd, yes 3rd Aztek we've purchased. Being used, didn't have the cooler. BTW, the other 2 are still running like tops - all 2001's. You can't get a nicer, smoother ride...
The only problem was marketing....who cares what they look like if they perform and ride well!!!
Page 553 from Code Complete 2: "Making changes to code randomly is like rotating a Pontiac Aztek's tires to fix an engine problem."
The Aztek was half-car, half-van, and universally branded as one of the ugliest vehicles to ever hit the market. Mr. Reuss had little to do with the design, but his job required him to defend it as if it were a thing of beauty.
It was brutal, he said during an interview as he drove, to grit his teeth and pretend that the Aztek was something to be proud of.
I LOVE my Aztek. I purchased a 2001 fully loaded AWD in 2002 with 26000 miles on it. The rear window on the 2000 and 2001 model does NOT have a blindspot issue. They put that crazy bar across the window in the later models. I am glad I did not get a later model, I sat in one and did not like it. I too thought it was ugly when I saw it the first time at a seminar, but it grew on me.
A friend of mine as an old Aztec with 75,000 miles and he loves it. He services his own car and has changed many parts. He never takes his Aztec to the garage, because of the high repair costs. This is not one of the easiest cars to work on and he refuses to sell it.
So after a bit of comment trolling I found, that most of the people commenting negatively about the vehicle have the general lack-of any intelligence. No particular comments stick out its just an overall assessment. If anyone of them was to drive one of these vehicles or experience the extras they come with maybe they could have a change of heart. But, oh well. Ignorance is bliss after all. It's unfortunate Pontiac make will not be in production any more.