It looks like we’re in for a few years of cautious and bland US car design, if some of the models on display at Detroit are anything to go by.

Chief offender of these is the Chrysler 200C, a ‘mid-size sedan’ in US-speak, aimed to sell against the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Sized to sit between the bulbous-looking Sebring and retro-inspired 300C, the 200C looks like it dropped out of the same mould used by every other car maker for their family four-doors.

The victory of the Hyundai Genesis sedan in US COTY 09 will only strengthen the hold of that style on mid-size sedan design.

What’s particularly disappointing is that Chrysler has always prided itself on breaking the design mould – one of the advantages of being the smallest of the Big Three.

It’s what saved the company in the 1980s, when it risked all by inventing the minivan segment. It's also what created a golden period of car design in the 1990s when design chief Tom Gale created cars like the Viper, cab-forward LH-family and later design boss Trevor Creed oversaw the 300C.

Of course it’s not surprising that, in today’s vicious downturn, in which Chrysler is the most threatened of the Big Three, 'conservative' is the fallback design position.

Chrysler shut its Pacifica design studio in California last year and the 200C was created at Auburn Hills in Detroit.

A building is just a space, of course; it’s the talent, creativity and company culture that it houses that’s important. But Chrysler is in real need of a transfusion of all these things, and soon.