The Evolution Of Car Websites… Were They Really That Ugly?


Audi A6
An example of visually powerful automotive advetising.

The motoring industry is one that prides itself on beautiful design, flawless presentation and always thinking ahead of the curve.

At international advertising and design awards you’ll often find teams that have worked on car launch campaigns grabbing the silverware.

Car marketers have a tough job to convince consumers to part with thousands of pounds on a single purchase; which is why such impressive big budget campaigns are created, these days companies offering car leasing services pretty much sell what the manufacturers put their money behind.

Car marketing always has a strong focus on emotive imagery that connects with the audience. Car manufacturer websites are no exception; when looking at some of the biggest brand’s websites you’ll find truly artistic web design that give users a special experience.

But… things haven’t always been that way. The silky polished websites that compliment today’s car launch campaigns were once a very different story. This post will look at some of the shockingly bad websites car manufacturers used in the past; whilst comparing them to their modern day versions.


Mazda’s earliest website was low key to say the least. With a simple map of the world that looked as if it had been drawn by a child they certainly weren’t going to win any design awards with this one.

Then… 1998 (1998)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


Looking like an enlarged booth printed business card Renault’s early website was a bit garish to say the least.

Then… in 1997 (1997)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


Is it just me or did this version of the Chevrolet site look like an old video game? It doesn’t entice me to buy one of their cars; but I have a strange urge to play Micro Machines on the Sega Megadrive again!

Then… 1997 (1997)

Now… 2013 (2013)


The old Ford website was well… old. I’ve not seen that font in their branding for a long time! Having said that I think they win the award for the best transition between old and new.

Then.. in 2000 (2000)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


Just like Mazda the Jaguar website utilises a world map theme. With the opaque black background you get the feeling you’re in one of those dodgy underground hacker sites you used to bump into back in the day.

Then… in 1999 (1999)

Now… 2013 (2013)


I don’t really know what to say about this website other than it’s certainly different to what we’re used to seeing these days. Basing your navigation with image links on spokes as if the mouse is some sort of gear stick is certainly special.

Then… in 1997 (1997)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


I doubt you’d get away with that shade of block yellow in any sort of website nowadays (corporate or otherwise). It’s strange to see what we took as the norm all those years ago and how almost all manufacturer websites base their background on HD images now.

Then… in 1996 (1996)

Now… in 2013
Toyota (2013)


Were Porsche ahead of the game with their minimalist design? Not  a car in sight! Maybe they knew that their vehicles were so good people didn’t need to see them…

Then… in 1996 (1996)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


BMW saw Porsche’s minimalist appearance and took it one step further with unformatted text, looking like it had been pasted straight out of Window’s notepad. Today’s website is slightly more visual and engaging…

Then… in 1996 (1996)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


This is one of my favourites; simply due to the HORRIBLE job done on editing the image of the vehicle. It was clearly a job done in MS paint with a less than stable hand. If you look around the wheels you’ll see what I mean!

Then… in 2004 (2004)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


Volvo’s website used to be a mish mash of everything under the sun. With multiple rows of buttons and images plastered everywhere the only logical conclusion is that they were trying to confuse visitors into making a purchase.

Then… in 1996 (1996)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


To be fair I think I have to actually give Ferrari their dues here. For the year it was developed this is actually a pretty nice website. But I still get the same video game feeling from the layout as with Chevrolet above.

Then… in 2000 (2000)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


Love the use of “the information highway”. A classic example of when the internet was seen as a luxury; compared to now when people complain if the free Wi-Fi momentarily drops connection.

Then… in 1996 (1996)

Now… in 2013 (2013)


You can’t see it here but this site’s four core images were rapidly changing animated GIF pictures. It was like being in a late 90s disco in your own home!

Then… in 1998 (1998)

Now… 2013 (2013)

Final Remarks

Let us know what you think of these old beaten up sites (and their sparkling new modern day equivalents). What is the worst of the oldies and best of the newbies? Do you ever remember web design being this bad?

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This entry was posted in Fun Car Stuff on by Marc Murphy

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