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.