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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Afterthoughts: Where Are The Dream Concept Cars?

    William Maley

    Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com

    February 13, 2012

    Walking around this year’s North American International Auto Show, I noticed that something was amiss. It wasn’t the amount of vehicles that made their premiere at the show; nor wasn’t the amount of press, industry, and guests walking around during press days. No, what missing were the concept cars. The lineup of concepts ranged from group design is not a good idea (Chevrolet Code 130R) to this is a production model in concept clothing (Honda Accord and Lincoln MKZ). Only three vehicles, the Chrysler 700C, Lexus LF-LC, and the Smart pickup thing were actual dream concepts. But even these concepts had a problem; they weren’t something you wanted to stop and stare at a few moments. They didn’t make your jaw drop in amazement and wonder.

    The last car that made me pause for a few moments was back in 2003. Cadillac introduced the Sixteen concept at the North American International Auto Show. It was an exercise in excess; length, width, girth, engine, and luxury. But the design of the vehicle, using Cadillac’s Art&Science language made the almost nineteen foot vehicle the star of the show. Everyone who stopped by the Cadillac exhibit took a few moments to stop and look at the concept.

    But the past few years at the auto shows haven’t brought forth vehicles like the Sixteen. What happen to the dream concept cars?

    There are two main causes to decline of the dream concepts cars. The first cause is the economic crisis. When the bank crisis hit back in the fall of 2008; that put automakers in a tough place or worse. They just didn’t have enough money to put into these dream concepts because they had more important things to use with that money, like new models. Designers couldn’t go all out with their concept designs due to how much money would need to be poured in. Hence why most concepts from the past few years have been thinly-veiled concepts.

    The second cause is the lack of imagination from most automotive designers. Take a look back at the past year of concept cars shown at the major auto shows and most of them could just roll off the assembly line. What happened to building concepts that might show up in 10, 20, 30 years, or never? What happened to building vehicles with dodecahedron wheels, nuclear powerplants, and are shaped like a starfish? Most designers seem to think that a concept is engine, seats, and four wheels. The lunacy and insanity that many a concept carried before the crisis, seems to be waning.

    As someone told me on Twitter when I brought this up, maybe what I saw at the show is part of cycle. One where we are currently exiting the doldrums of the past few years and barely seeing any concepts at all, to a recovery stage where automakers are being cautious, but are showing some cool cars. I hope so, because if the future is thinly veiled production models and group think vehicles instead of the dreamy, insane concepts; then just show me the door.


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    Totally agree, they need to remember that Dreams is what drives the passion. You need a quality Dream auto along with Quality auto to fund the dreams that keep people coming back for more.

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    Times are depressing for a lot of people now - maybe this is part of the reason...lack of jobs, lack of mortgages, lack of concept vehicles...things will change.

    If we change them...

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    Optimism is what we have to always show so that others can have a reason to grasp for the dream. In today’s society, there are too many groups/individuals that are negative and it does not help with Religious groups attacking each other and blaming everyone else for their lot in life when each person controls their own destiny.

    We Can Change The Future

    We Can Inspire The Next Generation

    We Can Show The Way to Peaceful Coexistent

    We Can Motivate A Nation

    We Can Motivate a World

    We have done it before, we can do it again!!!

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    Re: Concepts

    One of my favorite things about the Philadelphia Auto Show (years past) was seeing the concept cars, even if they were 1-3 years old at the time (I started going in '90 and didn't go to the NYIAS until '95 - so for five years I got to see concepts that were originally only shown at the major shows). A couple of years ago it dwindled down to maybe 2 or 3 concepts, this year I can't recall any concepts (pre-production models don't count). Even at the All-GM Nationals in Carlisle, PA (June) GM has stopped showing up with concepts in the T-Building (invitational display).

    Truly sad when a big company like GM won't show off its big investments to the fans :(

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    Optimism is what we have to always show so that others can have a reason to grasp for the dream. In today’s society, there are too many groups/individuals that are negative and it does not help with Religious groups attacking each other and blaming everyone else for their lot in life when each person controls their own destiny.

    We Can Change The Future

    We Can Inspire The Next Generation

    We Can Show The Way to Peaceful Coexistent

    We Can Motivate A Nation

    We Can Motivate a World

    We have done it before, we can do it again!!!

    It'd be helpful if we had those sentiments coming down from the top, but instead we get the exact opposite.

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    Theres a BIG problem WRT concept cars, and it isn't money- it's where we are on the design timeline.

    Pretty much right at the end.

    You look at a decade - decade comparison over the course of the industry's history, and there are distinct differences in design & it's evolution in every one : '00-'10, '10-20, etc. By the time you get up to the '80s, general design is gelling & slowing. Now, we've been in a design holding pattern since the '90s... and there's nothing earth-shattering coming in the 'teens, either. IMO, this is clearly evidenced by how frequently we get either retro- or 'production' concepts. We NEVER got retro cues anytime before the 1990s.

    Edited by balthazar
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    Theres a BIG problem WRT concept cars, and it isn't money- it's where we are on the design timeline.

    Pretty much right at the end.

    You look at a decade - decade comparison over the course of the industry's history, and there are distinct differences in design & it's evolution in every one : '00-'10, '10-20, etc. By the time you get up to the '80s, general design is gelling & slowing. Now, we've been in a design holding pattern since the '90s... and there's nothing earth-shattering coming in the 'teens, either. IMO, this is clearly evidenced by how frequently we get either retro- or 'production' concepts. We NEVER got retro cues anytime before the 1990s.

    I agree with what you have said here.

    My personal thoughts are that until we get battery technology to be smaller but denser and can get electric motors to be stronger with a wide range from very Eco to High performance with rapid recharge or very tiny, less than 1L in size generators, then we will see another evolution with both concepts and production vehicles.

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    This is nothing new, been this way for some time now.

    This society has forgotten how to dream.

    We're just dreaming about different things nowadays.

    If only that were true.

    Sadly, it isn't.

    Instead of dreaming about the future, we now squabble over equal shares of a declining standard of living - and pat ourselves on the back about how fair we are being to everyone.

    It's disgusting.

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    My personal thoughts are that until we get battery technology to be smaller but denser and can get electric motors to be stronger with a wide range from very Eco to High performance with rapid recharge or very tiny, less than 1L in size generators, then we will see another evolution with both concepts and production vehicles.

    That's primarily underhood changes- a different attraction totally from the visual of a concept car.

    The stereotypical concept car revolves on a roped-off turntable, untouched by consumer hands but positively ravaged mentally. The stuff of dreams and aspirations, The Next.

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    Lots of visually interesting concept cars in recent years, one that really stands out I can think of is the BMW i8...very futuristic and strange... or the red Ford something concept last year...

    bmw-vision-efficientdynamics-concept_th.jpg

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    My personal thoughts are that until we get battery technology to be smaller but denser and can get electric motors to be stronger with a wide range from very Eco to High performance with rapid recharge or very tiny, less than 1L in size generators, then we will see another evolution with both concepts and production vehicles.

    That's primarily underhood changes- a different attraction totally from the visual of a concept car.

    The stereotypical concept car revolves on a roped-off turntable, untouched by consumer hands but positively ravaged mentally. The stuff of dreams and aspirations, The Next.

    I respect what you are saying but I must disagree, the Underhood technology will I believe change the way Auto's can be made and shaped and this will allow new wild designs that due to limited thinking in todays young auto designers is lacking.

    I get the impression that due to the standard under the hood stuff they have to stay with in this dull jellybean shape and just use the front and back ends to make small changes and say wow we have a new concept.

    Just as we saw in the 60's, 70's and 80's with wild hotrods that had dual engines, 6 2 barrel carburators and wild trunks, fins, etc The Electric motors with battery packs that can be packaged around the wheels to keep the weight on them yet allow radical designs to the whole nose of the auto and rear end I think can reboot the true visually stunny Concept Cars.

    My favorite way to imagen an auto is to take the Capital letter H and lay it out with the H having it's opening in the front and back of a car and then just attach 4 wheels and put seats across it's mid section and then fashion a body around it, you can have some wild off road rides and some extremely low wind resistant road rides.

    I challange people to take a letter from our Alphabet and design an auto around that letters shape. We can truly deliver many stunning designs that I believe would inspire new ways to model auto's especially if you do not have to have the engine in the front or rear.

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    dfelt why would you want the weight of the drive motors in the wheels? the weight of the car is already on them but if you put the motor weight in the unsprung weight then you have to dampen that weight and the car will handle like crap. The ball joints will wear I'd think torque steer would be greater ect... C/F wheels may negate some of those problems but I don'tsee this for quite some time down the road.

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    We've seen the bmw conceptually before :

    89pontiac_stinger_1.jpg

    That's just one detail...the glass door inserts have been around at least since the Lamborghini Marzal concept of around 1970. The BMW concept is as futuristic and strange relative to today's production cars as the finned fantasies of your decade were to the production cars then...

    dfelt why would you want the weight of the drive motors in the wheels? the weight of the car is already on them but if you put the motor weight in the unsprung weight then you have to dampen that weight and the car will handle like crap. The ball joints will wear I'd think torque steer would be greater ect... C/F wheels may negate some of those problems but I don'tsee this for quite some time down the road.

    It would reduce the center of gravity, probably have better handling...lots of concepts and mfgrs have been looking at motors in the wheels...it wouldn't surprise me to see a production car in the next decade w/ electric motors in the wheels...

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    I challange people to take a letter from our Alphabet and design an auto around that letters shape. We can truly deliver many stunning designs that I believe would inspire new ways to model auto's especially if you do not have to have the engine in the front or rear.

    As a student of graphic design but a lover of car design, this is something I'd like to do if I had the chance.

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    This is nothing new, been this way for some time now.

    This society has forgotten how to dream.

    We're just dreaming about different things nowadays.

    If only that were true.

    Sadly, it isn't.

    Instead of dreaming about the future, we now squabble over equal shares of a declining standard of living - and pat ourselves on the back about how fair we are being to everyone.

    It's disgusting.

    But it is true. Just because it isn't manifested in physical styling exercises at auto shows, doesn't mean imagination in general is stagnant. People's imaginations are running wilder than ever, you just need to look in places you never have before or wouldn't expect.

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    We've seen the bmw conceptually before :

    89pontiac_stinger_1.jpg

    That's just one detail...the glass door inserts have been around at least since the Lamborghini Marzal concept of around 1970. The BMW concept is as futuristic and strange relative to today's production cars as the finned fantasies of your decade were to the production cars then...

    dfelt why would you want the weight of the drive motors in the wheels? the weight of the car is already on them but if you put the motor weight in the unsprung weight then you have to dampen that weight and the car will handle like crap. The ball joints will wear I'd think torque steer would be greater ect... C/F wheels may negate some of those problems but I don'tsee this for quite some time down the road.

    It would reduce the center of gravity, probably have better handling...lots of concepts and mfgrs have been looking at motors in the wheels...it wouldn't surprise me to see a production car in the next decade w/ electric motors in the wheels...

    With Motors in the Wheels, not only do you have the added weight on the wheels for better traction both on road and off, you can truly become creative in the body design of the auto. Think of the ability to go rock climbing in your new Rubicon where each wheel has maximum traction and torque due to the engine being in the wheels compared to a high center of gravity with greater roll over possibilities.

    I can envision an auto body that sits up 48" taller than where the wheels are and the weight is all down low to keep the wheels connecting with the ground. The arms going from these motorized wheels could be hydrolic up to the body with the ability to raise or lower it to your liking for better visability.

    Think of the flexibility you would have being able to have sports car hugging properties with Offroad capabilities without loosing traction.

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    This is nothing new, been this way for some time now.

    This society has forgotten how to dream.

    We're just dreaming about different things nowadays.

    If only that were true.

    Sadly, it isn't.

    Instead of dreaming about the future, we now squabble over equal shares of a declining standard of living - and pat ourselves on the back about how fair we are being to everyone.

    It's disgusting.

    But it is true. Just because it isn't manifested in physical styling exercises at auto shows, doesn't mean imagination in general is stagnant. People's imaginations are running wilder than ever, you just need to look in places you never have before or wouldn't expect.

    We'll just have to agree to disagree, I guess. And I'm not just talking about show cars.

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