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At every major auto show around the world, car companies showcase concept cars — usually something far fetched, bold and with massive rims but they’re not just for show, they do serve a purpose. Or purposes rather...
Hype. It’s that one trailer that gets us hyped for the next Avengers movie, or the one song that gets me excited for a new Travis Scott album. Hype is what car manufacturers build from concept cars too, it gets the public excited for their big new release. The Tata Sierra concept was one of the most talked about cars at this year's Auto Expo and created a stir among the journalists and public alike — pretty great marketing, I’d say. But is creating hype the only reason that a manufacturer invests crores of rupees in a concept car? Wouldn't a well-made Instagram post do the same thing? So why is that manufacturers make concept cars? Let's break it down.
One of the primary reasons for car companies to make concept cars is to lay a path ahead for future models to follow. The design language shown on concept cars filters down to more humble road going cars too. Concept cars can also be shown as a way of updating a manufacturer’s family face. It’s not just about the exterior either, interior elements from concepts can be seen in road going cars, fairly quickly at times. The Mercedes-Benz Vision GT showcased the Panamericana grille back in 2013, an element that is commonplace in AMG cars of today.
Car companies can sometimes use concept cars as poster cars for their company and use its image to drive sales for other cars in its line-up. For example, the Renault stand at this year’s Auto Expo did not have any major launches. However, their Trezor concept car pulled massive crowds. Would-be buyers and Renault owners would then start to associate the brand with a bold, sporty concept. A number of times, car makers have also put their production cars in movies, to give their brand a cooler image. If James Bond was driving a Suzuki S-Presso with his girl by his side, you’d want one, wouldn’t you?
One of the most important functions of showcasing a concept car at a big motor show is to gauge public opinion. Sure you would have internal feedback while designing the car but the only way to truly know whether the car will actually work is to bring it out into the open. In case of a concept if it is not received well, you can just scrap it and call it a mere design study.
Concept cars predict where the future is heading, these days it is common to see concept cars with large screens on the inside, radical propulsion systems and crazy lighting elements. Sometimes the prediction translates to the road and sometimes it doesn’t. Nevertheless a concept car is a very important tool for us journalists, and you petrolheads, to know what kind of cars you will be seeing on the road in the next five to ten years. The Hyundai FE Fuel Cell concept, showcased at the Geneva Motor Show in 2017, paved the way for the production spec Nexo SUV that is on sale internationally and might make its way to India.
Concept cars aren’t just a way for manufacturers to empty their pockets, there is a lot of research that goes into it and nine times out of ten, some elements of a concept car make into a road car in the near future. While some cars like the Aston Martin Valkyrie and even the Land Rover Defender stick pretty close to how their concept siblings look, others like the Hyundai Aura don’t. At the end of the day it all depends on what the manufacturer really wants to achieve from their concept car. Now come on, Tata Motors. Build that Sierra!