We often see car manufacturers pouring money to develop new concept cars, most of which may never see the road. Concepts can be an exterior design study, and they could showcase futuristic interior designs as well. While many are static displays, some have powertrains from existing cars. Some test out a new powertrain as well.
As most of these cars never make it to the road, I wondered why car makers bother to spend so much money to build these cars. Here are a few reasons why concept cars make sense.
@BHPians, please add on to the list.
Concept cars spark creativity among designers. Usually, there are no technical restraints on the design and designers can come with a car as they imagine it to be. Production cars have limitations to their design (like height of headlamps) to meet certain safety rules.
Manufacturers use concept cars to test out new technologies that may eventually make their way to production cars. It provides a road map for technical research and also accelerates the development. Technologies like hybrid powertrains were first showcased in concept cars that never made it to production. The car shown here is the Prius concept.
Get feedback on future design trends
Car makers use concept cars to get feedback on the design and technologies. It also acts as a part of market research when a company is planning to bring out a new product. Gauging public reaction will tell the designers if they can go ahead with the design or if it needs to be changed. It tells designers what works and what does not.
Gives manufacturer something newsworthy
Car makers take every opportunity to make it to the news section of automotive websites and magazines. Concept cars will give them the publicity they need and also to stay relevant in the competing market.
Designers enjoy it and get a lot of satisfaction
Give designers a free hand without any limitations and ask them to go wild with their imagination. They will definitely enjoy the work given and take pride in it.
Makes the exhibition stall look better
Sometimes, there may be no new product for a company to showcase at an Auto Expo. Concept cars can help draw in more people by adding a bit of flair to the stand.
Can show what the company is capable of
It is an opportunity to show the company’s loyal followers as well as investors the direction the company is heading and their capabilities as well in both design and new technologies. It will help keep them interested in the brand.
Can be used as movie cars
Added publicity for the company. Concept cars are sometimes used in movies as well. These include Aston Martin DB10 used in the movie Spectre and the i8 Concept used in Mission Impossible. This kind of publicity comes cheap for the car makers as well. It is said that Lotus gave four cars for a James Bond movie, one of which was able to act as a submarine. Lotus did not get any payment for that but it is said that it was cheaper than getting a centrefold ad in the Times.
Cost lesser for a study
Although they are not cheap, it is more economical for a carmaker to use these concept cars to study the market response. It is cheaper to make this and scrap the project if they feel its not worth it than to build a production model which would turn into a flop.
Establish reputation of designers
Just like designers in the fashion industry come up with strange designs for fashion shows that help them make a name for themselves, concept cars are used by car designers to build their own reputation.
Change brand image
Say a company wants to start doing something that they have never done before, it could be a new product or a new type of vehicle, concepts can be used to slowly change the brand image and brand perceptions. Some carmakers could improve their image as well. For example, the Lexus Spindle grille was first shown on a concept car and it helps change the image of Lexus from a company that builds boring cars to a company that builds sporty cars.
Change trend in automotive design
Concept cars usually bring something new to the table and if it clicks, the new design element could be carried over to the production car. Some of these new elements maybe a hit and might make other carmakers sit up and take notice. Slowly it could filter to other car makers as well. The Audi R8 was the first car to get all-LED headlights, which were previewed in the Le Mans Quattro concept.
Raise the bar and compete harder
The industry is going through major changes in mobility now with the advent of electric cars and autonomous cars. Concepts testing these new waters encourage car makers to push each other to develop new design themes and new technologies as well.
Sometimes affects reviews of the car as well
The Lexus LC is a prime example to show why concept cars are important. The car started life as the LF-LC Concept. Everyone loved the new design and it won an award as well. This prompted Lexus to build the Lexus LC Coupe, which looks largely similar to the concept. As a result, the production car won a design award as well. And most reviews now talk about how good the car looks, bringing in positive aspects to the reviews for the car.
The right concept car creates excitement and reinvigorates customers’ interest in a company or an upcoming product. There have been times when people mail the companies with passionate letters after seeing their concepts and even send them cheques and deposits to show interest in buying the production version.
Reach out to more people
As enthusiasts, we know about most of the car brands and their products. However, not everyone knows about all the different companies and the types of cars they sell. Concepts, especially at public shows and expos, attract the general crowd and may introduce the brand and its products to a new customer who may have never heard of the company before.
For video games
Car makers could collaborate with video game makers to bring in concepts that are shown at the expos to video games. Some concepts are built exclusively for games. It lets enthusiasts drive cars they may never get their hands on in video games. This increases publicity for the car maker as well as for the video game.
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