As everyone in the motoring industry gets excited about the Frankfurt motor show the debate about how useful the idea of a concept car actually is comes up yet again. Do these over designed and under engineered pieces of automotive exploration actually play a role in creating what people get to drive on the road in the real world?
The Concept of Concept
The ideas behind concept cars can vary greatly. Some companies design them purely to grab headlines, they design a car that is bordering on the ridiculous in the full knowledge it will never make production just to get everyone in the motoring press and ideally beyond to take notice of them. This plan often backfires when the general public find the creation so silly they end up thinking badly of the manufacturer. These are thankfully rare, but another strong motivation for designing a concept is to test the response to a new shape, style or type of car. By putting it out as a concept the manufacturer can dip a toe into the shark pool of automotive press and see if it stays attached to their foot.
The final reason a car maker would launch a concept is to basically launch a car they have already decided to make. They go through all the boardroom debates and design stages, they go so far as to introduce engines and drive trains into the mix and then they realise they forgot to test out the idea. What better way to avoid an embarrassing wave of comments about a car they have spend millions on than to say it is just a concept?
What actually happens to a great deal of modern concept cars is that they end up making it into the showrooms but in a slightly different guise. When it comes to the last type of concept mentioned above, the manufacturers will generally keep going on the course they started but by using the feedback from events like the Frankfurt show they can tweak the final design and make sure the car gets of the best start. Cars like the Kia GT were always intended to be real cars and the brand used the concept to genuinely launch the idea. Naturally cost, sales of other cars and general company delays often get in the way but the intention and desire to launch is often there.
The overriding fact about most concept cars is that they are very useful. Some may seem silly, and a few actually are, but that doesn’t mean the whole idea is flawed. There are also some amazing cars that never made it past the concept stage like the new version of the Lamborghini Muira, this stunning “tip of the hat” to the older version would have made for a legendary car but for reasons only known to Audi, who own Lamborghini, it never made it. However, many cars do, the new Ford GT, the Jaguar F-Pace and many more all make it through the initial stages and end up as cars you can go and buy. Even if the name changes and some of the sillier features get left behind at the motor show, the end result definitely justifies the concept of concept cars.