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We often talk about body styling, engine performance, and even gas mileage on our vehicles. But, one accessory rarely gets the limelight. It’s one we see a lot, but don’t think about too much. Located smack dab on the front of our vehicle, it is of course, a car’s grille.

These grilles get taken for granted. Most people just see them as design features to enhance the vehicle’s design. Well, there’s some truth to that, but it goes a bit deeper. Grilles actually have a function and the reason just may surprise you.

The purpose of a car grille

At the front of the vehicle is an opening that allows the air to move into the engine compartment. The air helps to cool the radiator and the engine, so nothing overheats. To cover that hole, manufacturers will install an accessory known as the car grille. It allows the air to flow freely underneath the hood while protecting the engine parts from road debris.

However, times have shifted and now more people are driving electric cars, that don’t have a combustible engine or radiator to protect. Automakers of these cars are still using grilles, though.

Some use fake ones for strictly design elements, while others have them for cooling the battery system. Sometimes, a grille is part of the aerodynamic features manufacturers implement to boost speed, while reducing drag.

Manufacturing designs

Car manufacturers often use the grille as a signature to the company. When looking at the front end of the car, you can sometimes tell what brand the vehicle is.

For example, BMW has had the same twin-oval design for many years. It redesigns them every so often for a fresh new look. BMW even upgraded the oval shapes to a much larger size on some of its vehicles, but it might go back to using the same classic kidney shapes in the near future.

Then there are the vehicles, like Volvo, who varies the grille design with some of its models. Its signature brand feature is the emblem that’s always seen on the grille, no matter what style it installs on the car. People know it because it’s a familiar design. Same with the Cadillac. Buyers have been seeing the same sophisticated grille style, with its emblem embellishing it, for a long time.

Why is there so much appeal with car grilles?

Some automakers take the look of the grille seriously to ensure a precise style. Rolls Royce, known for its luxurious vehicles, will position the grille slats manually, so there are no imperfections seen in the final product. A marred appearance would essentially hurt its brand.

Other car manufacturers use larger grilles, covering most of the front end, to bring uniqueness to the style of the car’s exterior. When there are too many vehicles with similar body styles, automotive designers need to come up with features that make them stand out from its competitors.

To add some personalization to increase sales, automakers will sometimes design front ends with elements of facial features. For some reason, some people are drawn to a ‘face’ on the car.

By aligning the headlights, grille and sometimes front bumper, you could give the illusion of a toothy grin, angry face, or a laughing car. Someone with a personality that fits the front end, might purchase a car because they, in a sense, see themselves in it.

Car grilles have been around for a long time and have gone through many changes over the years. We’ve seen them evolve from being functional to becoming a stylish feature. Whether you’re looking to protect a radiator, boost airflow, or get noticed with a vehicle that stands out, grilles will most likely continue to be an invaluable accessory, far into the future.