How important are concept cars in today’s automotive industry?

02 October 2022

automotive

Concept cars have been an automotive industry staple for decades, but what role do they play in today’s automotive world?

From the bold and beautiful to the outrageous and downright weird, concept cars are designed to catch the eye and are, more often than not, bold, futuristic and aesthetically pleasing.

They will never see automotive production or a showroom, but concept cars have been an important element in carmakers’ strategies for decades, and manufacturers spend considerable amounts developing them.

In an environment of intense commercial competition and tight profit margins, the concept car is a way for carmakers to gauge public response towards new designs, as well as creating media buzz and favourable PR.

‘Concept cars are still important to manufacturers as they allow them to look at new designs and also, in many cases, new manufacturing processes,’ stated Andy Cutler, UK car editor – forecast values at Glass’s.

renault
Source: Bertone

‘Manufacturers will also use concept cars to showcase future design paths and then they will judge the feedback from the public, allowing them to make more-informed decisions with regards to design changes. Much of this early design is now done with AI but when it comes to showcasing the future to the masses, there is nothing like having a good concept car at a show,’ added Cutler.

Volvo’s 1979 Tundra concept, designed by Bertone, never saw production with the Swedish brand, but did find favour with Citroën. The French manufacturer used the design concept as the basis of the popular, multi-million-selling Citroën BX.  

Some memorably audacious concepts have included the Peugeot Onyx, the Ferrari 512 S Modulo, and the Ford GT90, all of which never entered production. Despite this, many concept models possess elements and design features that make their way onto production models.

Talking to the BBC back in 2018, the then DS design director Thierry Metroz described the concept car as a ‘development accelerator.’ With the automotive industry moving away from standard internal combustion engine-powered vehicles and towards electric, hydrogen and autonomy, many manufacturers are embracing the spirit of the concept car to showcase future plans.

From concept to reality

Swedish electric-vehicle manufacturer Polestar has illustrated how a concept can capture the public’s imagination. The company’s Polestar 6 concept received a hugely positive response and effectively forced Polestar to commence a production run.

The Polestar 6 LA Concept has therefore been made available initially as a 500-unit production run, and the 155mph, $200,000 (€208,000) electric roadsters sold out within minutes. This is proof that concept cars can find their way on to the road, but customers will have to wait until 2026 to get behind the wheel of this particular model.

Whilst Polestar’s roadster might be an unrealistic prospect for most budgets and automotive aspirations, there

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