Monday, March 11, 2013

Concept Cars and That Future Flying DeLorean

Being born and raised in The Motor City, you might say that cars have always been close to my heart.

Don't confuse that with being able to recite auto stats or recognize makes or models. Hell, it doesn't even mean that I can fix any part of a car... flat tires and brake lights are possibilities, but not 100% certainties based on my skill set. Not at all.

Still, I've been to my share of auto shows through my years as a native (suburban) Detroiter and Michigander. And so I've been to enough in my life to have seen a whole bunch of Concept Cars.

You know, these are the vehicles that might also be known as "dream cars" or design prototypes that haven't come to fruition. And probably won't. Because most don't.

Anyone in the auto industry or who's a car show fan certainly knows this.

One of those well-regarded dictionaries with a British name tells me the definition of a "concept" is: 1.) An abstract idea; a general notion. OR 2.) A plan or intention; a conception.

Nowhere in the definitions does it say anything about these definitely coming to market, and changing the way we drive or operate on the roadways.

Basically, these show off new styling or new technology. Many times, they are marketing tools used to assess how people (potential customers) might feel about some new or unfamiliar design. If the public reacts favorably, then maybe the manufacturers will go ahead -- assuming they can even be designed that way in mass production and is something the company can ultimately afford to do. These concept cars might eventually lead to different vehicles down the road (ha!), but clearly any concept vehicle is not ready for the roadways and it's not time to trade in our keys for a better model.

No one who knows what they are talking about would think to pitch a concept car as a sure thing, though. You'd probably get laughed out of an auto show, even if you happen to own a car and drive one every day to and from the office. Some in the auto show world might even think about revoking your access, because you somehow swerved across the center line between "concept car" and" road-ready, driving-approved", and then smashed into ongoing traffic by publishing that thought in a popular auto magazine that many car-lovers read.



Now, I get that sometimes we see a concept car and get pretty excited. Hey, some are pretty damn cool looking! I've seen some and thought they were awesome and thought about how much I'd love to drive them. Others have made me gasp in horror. The largest number of these concept cars have pretty much resembled others and included parts or design aspects I'd seen elsewhere.

Regardless of my reaction, though, the concept car is a dream. So I'd never call up my friends at the bar and say, "OMG... you have GOT to get down to Cobo Hall and see this new car. It's AWESOME, and someone here who knows someone who knows someone says Ford is banking its entire auto portfolio on this. They know it's OK to drive so we don't have to worry about it ever not being made. Before you know it, this car will be at every local dealership ready for test drives!!! Everyone's going to be driving one of these!"

I would not leave my friends with that thought, the implication that it's pretty much time to trade in their current car keys and start planning to sign a new vehicle lease. No, I wouldn't. Unless I was a little drunk myself. Or really really wanted to screw with my friends who love cars a lot more than I do and can typically rattle off auto history trivia at a moment's notice.

That'd be an affront to those I care about. Even if I forgot about "concept" vs. "reality" for a moment and got wrapped up in my own excitement about what could happen, it's not fair to others to make that cool concept car out to be more than it really is. Besides, I've gone to enough car shows in my years to know better.

Another auto analogy that comes to my mind, since I'm such a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy.

It's like telling fellow Marty McFly fans that the car they've been waiting for since the '80s is finally here. Of course, they're going to think flying DeLerean. Maybe even one with a flux capacitor, if that dream goes all the way back to 1955... Duh.

But then, the rug's pulled out from underneath when they find out that you've actually only seen a display model of a car that looks like that DeLorean. A sign nearby says the only thing missing for this to be reality: Hover technology, which hasn't yet been invented. Oh, and time travel. And they still need to figure out exactly where the wheels can go to see if this car can navigate the roads before hitting the skies...

Yeah, exactly. Even Doc Brown would think this is a WTF moment and you've fallen off the delusional train.

Someone who's been studying cars, loving them, admiring countless varieties of future models for years - decades, even - should know better. They wouldn't make us think one of these cars is basically road-ready, even though Ford hasn't yet even figured out if it can design the car and get it approved for safe travel.

You have to scratch your head and wonder what's going on if someone does say that. Is that person high? Was the carpool Kool Aid spiked with vodka, or did they fall into the Kool Aid pool completely? Did they inhale too many exhaust fumes while wandering around the auto design factories?

This is putting the cart before the horse (old school car reference there), because you have overlooked the very way the concept car process works.

I have no problem with concept cars being hailed as cool future possibilities, as long as they're displayed in part of the exhibit marked for conceptuals. But don't get me all excited and imagining what the window sticker will say about cost and model year, when in fact we aren't there yet.



That's just mean. Like Biff Tannen mean.

Especially for us BTTF fans. And those of us from Michigan and Detroit, who have been to enough of these car shows in our lives. If you try to manipulate me like that, then I suggest you just Make Like a Tree and Leave.

Or at least, go back to learning the difference between concept cars and road-tested, driving-approved vehicles. Maybe then you can actually work in the auto show world without pissing off car-lovers who watch these things.

OK. I'm done with this. I am going to go find a DVD of Back to the Future so I can dwell on how much I want a flying DeLorean... because really, the movie sequel says it's not too far off and we should have them by October 2015...



3 comments:

Scott S said...

Since you brought the topic up, its worth sharing that the estate of the short-lived car company DeLorean Motors, founded by John DeLorean (who died at age 80 in 2005), just so happens to be for sale in the San Diego area if you have a million plus dollars to spare. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune "The nearly 18-acre property inside the Pauma Valley Country Club has been listed for $1.89 million to $2.1 million, said reps at Davidson Group Realty, the company marketing the home." (see http://bit.ly/YikqTF for details)

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