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Hear Me Out: Modern Concept Cars Are Bad Concepts And Bad Cars


Image for article titled Hear Me Out: Modern Concept Cars Are Bad Concepts And Bad Cars

Photo: Nissan, Graphic: Steve DaSilva

Have you seen a Marvel movie recently? It seems like no person, anthropomorphic fox, or sentient AI is free from their grasp on culture these days. You know the third act, where every character you’ve come to appreciate (or at least recognize) is suddenly replaced by a PlayStation 4 cutscene version of themselves? Just computer-generated action figures doing backflips at each other, a muddy mess of impossible stunts that’s neither noteworthy nor impressive.

That’s what concept cars feel like now, and it sucks.

The Corvette Mako Shark II, a good concept car.

The Corvette Mako Shark II, a good concept car.
Photo: Chevrolet

What’s The Purpose Of A Concept Car?

The best concept cars are a vision for an automaker’s future. That sounds like the same old marketing speak that every automaker will tell you, but it’s a trope for a reason. Good concepts are either a way to show off new design principles, new technology, or to gauge interest for a new product before actually spending the money to fully develop it.

Design principles are probably the most common. For a single model, that may mean a concept like the Corvette Mako Shark above (which became the C3 Corvette) or the Toyota FT-1 (precursor to the Supra). For a larger brand style, that could mean a concept like the Buick Avista, Mazda RX-Vision, or the Cadillac Escala — a view of the automaker’s design language, free of any concerns for practicality.

God this thing is gorgeous

God this thing is gorgeous
Image: Mazda

New technology can also warrant a concept car. These concepts usually have a design that isn’t remotely close to real-world-ready, but they’re packed full of features that will eventually trickle down to production cars. I’ll say that again: Features that will eventually trickle down to production cars. Remember that one, it’ll be important later.

The push towards autonomous vehicles has given us a surfeit of tech-based concepts, like the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR or the Audi Skysphere, the concept isn’t new. The slew of post-war turbine cars (like the Rover JET1) from the 1940s through the ‘60s were the same vein: A glimpse of future tech, even if that future never arrived.

Look at this stubby little guy. Absolutely friend-shaped

Then, there are concepts that gauge interest in a product. Remember the time Dodge almost made a Pontiac Solstice, eight years before Pontiac did? Or the time Dodge almost made a Pontiac Solstice, three years before Pontiac did? Or the time Dodge almost made a Pontiac Solstice, two years after Pontiac did?

These concepts are usually not production-ready, but they’re close enough that they could reasonably be produced by the company showing them off. That Dodge Demon concept (no, not that Demon) was designed to use an existing Chrysler motor. If the public had responded well, and that pesky little finance thing hadn’t gone down, we’d all be putting Dodge Demons on our list of future classics. Wait.

I see taking photos at auto shows hasn’t gotten any easier in the past couple decades

All three of these concept car purposes share one core idea: A concept car should show you something that’s coming. It may not come soon, and it may not look exactly the same when it gets here, but concept cars are supposed to be a bit of a crystal ball for an automaker’s future. An orb to ponder, if you will.

With these concepts in mind, how does something like Nissan’s new Ariya Single Seater Concept stack up? In a word: Badly.

Image for article titled Hear Me Out: Modern Concept Cars Are Bad Concepts And Bad Cars

Photo: Nissan

Why The Ariya Single Seater Doesn’t Work

We’ve got our three purposes: Debuting new design, debuting new tech, and gauging interest in a future product. Let’s run the list.

Is the Ariya Single Seater a new design? No! They couldn’t even give this thing its own name, you think it’s getting its own design language? The car takes the distinctive styling cues from the Ariya (pointy angled lighting, the cool bronze-ish color, sides inspired by…



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