Why Do Manufacturers Make Concept Cars?
Why Do Manufacturers Make Concept Cars?
Posted on April 29, 2021
What is a Concept Car?
Wild, weird and futuristic, not much excites a car aficionado more than when brands unveil their concept cars.
A concept car is a prototype that is meant to showcase new styling in a vehicle. It’s an automaker fanning its feathers and showing off what it can do. Based on consumer and critical reactions, some elements of the concept car may be integrated into models in the regular line. It can also influence future designs and provide insights into the technical research direction for the company. As the Design Director for French luxury car brand, DS stated, "A concept car is a development accelerator.”
Concept cars have a long history of creating a new standard of cool in the automotive industry. Dating back to 1938 with the Buick Y-Job, this iconic example of the early concept car set the gold standard that manufacturers would follow for years to come.
So now that we know what concept cars do for the automakers who produce them, what do they do for us?
The Purpose of Concept Cars
Any car enthusiast will be able to relay the excitement that they feel when a new concept car design is dropped by an automaker. For us, a concept car is like a window into the future. Or, more realistically, a window into a possible future. Many concept cars never manage the glory of a full production run so they end up living as relics that are more akin to works of art than they are functioning machines. They run the gamut from zany to hideous to beautiful and though most are destined to be relegated to a designation as nothing more than a curiosity, they sure do keep the industry on its toes and keep things interesting.
In short, concept cars are fun! They are bound only by the limits of imagination: concept cars don’t have to follow safety regulations, they don’t have to be practical, reliable, or efficient. They have no laurels to stand on and they are free to be the unique snowflakes of the automotive world.
Why Don’t Concept Cars Get Full Production Runs?
Well, the answer to that question is that sometimes they do! Some cars that are a part of the modern lexicon of cars, like the Prowler, The Jeep Rescue, the Dodge Challenger, and the Dodge Viper all began life as concept cars.
Concept cars are produced to be showcased at car shows and the first crowd that gets a gander at them are the media but once the media has dissipated, the cars remain and the general public arrives. The denizens of car awesome-ness, the nerds that help the industry to push its own boundaries, these are the people who can be the catalyst in whether or not a concept car gets a shot at the big time. When the crowd reacts to a concept in such a way that the carmakers can’t ignore it, that’s when the concept can become reality.
Sometimes concept cars are just meant to spur some conversation about a model that is slated to drop somewhere further down the line. That doesn’t mean that every aspect of the concept car is going to make it into the production model but the concept car will turn a few heads and get the conversation started to build excitement for what’s to come.
That means that if an automaker has a new version of a vehicle in their portfolio about to launch, they may tease the release with a concept car that would have some slight tweaks from the production car version. The idea is that this will generate interest in the vehicle in anticipation of it arriving on the scene in its final form in the coming year or so.
Shocking, imaginative, and innovative, some examples of the concept car have resonated throughout the years, sending shockwaves of influence that continue to inspire automakers to this day.
The Mercedes Benz C111 springs to mind. Released after a stint of relative quietude on the Mercedes front, 1969’s Mercedes concept car, the C111 was ahead of its time and influenced generations to come, not the least of which is Marty Mcfly’s favourite time machine, the DMC Delorean, which wouldn’t hit the market until more than a decade later.
The C111 broke new ground, experimenting with Wankel engines, turbochargers, air conditioning, and, of course, gull-wing doors.
Fast forward to 2009 and another standout worth a mention is the BMW VED or Vision Efficient Dynamics. With a striking design, the VED offered the performance of some of BMW’s beefier engines like the M3 while paving the way for the clean engines of the future with a turbo hybrid drivetrain that emitted less than 100g/km of CO2.
Hey, they can’t all be winners though, right? When the hobbles come off and the creativity of the car designers is allowed to run free you never know what you’re going to get.
Exhibit A: The Honda Fuya Jo. This oddball from 1999 was created for the party animals amongst us. Honda stated that it was designed to transport ‘people who demand the full excitement of nightlife.” Passengers were able to stand up in the vehicle and the steering wheel was shaped like a record to mimic a DJ at a turntable. In honesty, that all sounds kind of cool but the Fuya Jo itself was something of a monstrosity.
Another standout was the Honda Unibox. It seems like we’re ragging on Honda here but, hey, at least they go for gold with their concept vehicles. The Unibox was, well, kind of a clear, rolling cube. Honda touted it as a vehicle that was ‘thinking outside of the box', and they said that it increased a motorist's ability to communicate with other drivers. The cabin of the vehicle was stylized as a living room, complete with hardwood floors. Again, pretty neat but it’s also not a huge surprise that this concept didn’t quite catch on.
What’s Next for the Concept Car?
Here’s something that will not likely come as a surprise: electric cars are the future. It may also not be particularly surprising in that case that the most exciting concept cars in recent years have featured electric vehicles. Everyone from trusted brands to new players in the game such as Byton and Rivian has been upping the ante for what an electric vehicle can be.
Highly anticipated models include the 500 hp SUV BMW iX, the Jeep Wrangler Magneto, and, of course, possibly the most divisive vehicle concept to be teased in recent years, the futuristic beast that is reminiscent of a tank from a sci-fi movie, Tesla’s Cybertruck.
The Concept Car Concept
Concept cars are conversation starters, crowd-pleasers, and drivers of innovation. They’re also just fun! They keep the automotive industry exciting and push the limits of imagination of what a vehicle can be.
You may not find a concept car on the CarHub North York or CarHub Caledon lots but will find many fine examples of the end result of the concept car: the production vehicle. The concept cars of the past have morphed and been reworked into the personal vehicles that you’ll find on our lots today.
On the hunt for your dream car? You can book an appointment today to find your next true automotive love at either of our two CarHub locations.