Contemporary concept cars aren’t flights of fancy and evolutionary dead ends any longer as; instead, they have been reduced to little more than clairvoyant prophets forecasting the immediate future with incredible accuracy. They showcase what a new headlight treatment will look like, in a generation or two, or they tell us what sort of design cues are going to remain and what is going to change. Not to put too fine a point on it but watching the big names roll out their newest ideas is a lot like watching paint dry, for the most part. I can’t be excited about a new Camry or Accord and there are probably others like me.
However, every now and then something truly amazing sneaks through the gaps and the market reacts with overwhelming positivity. Polls, opinions and internet hacks will support the concept and promote it across their blogs and articles only to in turn see those ideas, those concepts, fail to make it to market and be consigned to the depths of indifference. Instead a look at the future of bland, the future of boring, is offered up. I just can’t believe some of the great ideas that never see the production line.
Cadillac is renowned for its ability to conceptualize exactly what customers want and then not deliver. From the Sixteen to the Ciel, to the Cien, to the Elmiraj, Cadillac has been continuously teasing us with what could be, but isn’t, even though it already runs and drives.
They do have a couple recent smash hits to their credit in the ATS and CTS but with a name like Cadillac, not having an outrageous land yacht in the line-up seems almost sacrilegious particularly when that brand stood head and shoulders above the competition during the heyday of concept cars.
The cheese-hating Top Gear presenters loved it, but Americans can't bring themselves to make it?!
Another GM brand that struck gold was Chevrolet with the Code 130 R. This would have been a small, rear-wheel drive platform which, when it made the rounds a few years back, was met with enthusiastic reception and would have been excellently positioned to capitalize on the demographic crying for exactly that; a small 2+2, rear-wheel coupe – most of whom ended up buying one of the Toyota-Subaru twins.
But don't for a second think that this a mainly American thing.
This year Kia stunned the car community with the stunning GT-4 Stinger and the crowds were...um..stung. This beautiful, low-slung coupe proposes a rear-wheel drive platform with the option to row your own gears and it fixes the one issue that Subaru and Toyota haven’t in the twins; power. The thing is, this isn’t a concept car but an almost production ready example of what Kia is going to offer. Touted about as a concept car, the likelihood is that Kia was merely hedging its’ bets on the off chance the market said, “No, we don’t want another great looking sports coupe for a great price.” This isn’t a new concept; it's a proven and accepted idea that's been in production for as long as the horse stopped being a viable mode of transport.
I don't know the difference between a teaser and a taster anymore, and I certainly can’t understand why both are considered concepts.
Automotive manufactures need to realize that customers aren’t kidding around and they’re not playing games with their money. Their money is every bit as important to them today as it was, if not more so, in the 50’s and 60’s when concept cars were unmitigated romances between science-fiction and science-fact. Thus, when the public responds with loud and enthusiastic cries of, “Yes, give us that!” they need to capitalize on that quickly and not allow the idea, the concept, to stagnate or worse… dissolve into oblivion.
Or we could just keep making these.
I can’t stomach the stuff that people buy these days and I accept that they play a big part in what is ultimately brought to market. The modern concept car, as a concept, needs to be re-conceptualized. Design house projects, both those of the recognized type and those seeking recognition, flood the internet. With the advent of 3D printing, many of these shapes are given form in reality. These artistic sculptures could easily be considered the concept-cars of the day as few run and fewer are intended for production given that their very nature belies their function as cars. Meanwhile, the modern concept car – used as little more than a compass to guide the brand through the next one, or two, generations of that platform – needs to be recognized as what it is and that’s your next, boring appliance. A third category, one into which the likes of the Code 130 R and GT-4 Stinger should be lumped, would truly test the waters with production-ready testers not unlike the taster’s at your favorite grocery store.
I can’t sit back and watch auto-manufacturers call every new thing a concept, as if it’s some cutting edge revolution instead of accepting what it really is and marketing as such, “Dear customer, this is your next car… unless you really like this one but you can’t have that one over there because it’s made of clay.”
"Some assembly required."
There is no question or doubt that production responds to market demand and when consumers overwhelmingly purchase a particular type of product it’s only logical for the market to follow suit with additional, similar products. There is no question that the car buying public commands buying power and there is also no question that this power is being misused and abused both by the customer and, to a larger extent, advertisers. The implication here is that if consumers stopped buying vehicles as appliances, the world would be a better place but perhaps that’s a discussion for another day.
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