A concept car is a vehicle produced to showcase a new idea in car design. This can include a new style of bodywork, the use of a new material, or a new type of technology. Although you are unlikely to ever drive a concept car, they are an important part of the automotive design process.
In the past, concept cars were known as dream cars. The first concept car is generally considered to be the Buick Y-Job, which was designed by Harley Earl in 1938. Features of the Y-Job, such as the body shape and wraparound bumpers, can be seen in many later Buick models. Since then, many concept cars have come and gone, but some have provided the inspiration for the car you drive today, just as the Y-Job did.
Concept cars help manufacturers gauge consumer interest in a new technology or style before they commit large sums of money to mass production. As with production cars, making a concept car usually starts with a drawing and then a scale model followed by the production of a full-size vehicle. If the concept car receives a positive reception, a number of iterations may be made to further refine the design.
Very few concept cars ever go into production, and many are not even drivable. However, you can see them at auto shows in the same way that you can see designer clothes at fashion shows. Car companies often announce a new concept car just before a major auto show. If you have an interest in automotive design, you might like to visit an auto show in your area. You can also see concept cars in automotive museums. You can find out more about auto shows and museums in automotive magazines and on the Internet.
Some concept cars are designed purely for entertainment or artistic reasons. The designer can give his or her creativity free rein and not worry too much about how the concept would work in practice. One concept car that you may be familiar with is the 1955 Lincoln Futura that was later customized and used as the Batmobile in the Batman TV series (1966-1968). However, other concept cars serve more practical purposes.
Car manufacturers are continually looking for ways to get ahead of the competition and produce a car that will sell well. One area of great interest to manufacturers is alternative-fuel technology. Concerns about the availability of petroleum fuel, and the impact of its use on the environment, has led to the development of natural gas vehicles and the electric car. This has given rise to a number of concept cars as manufacturers compete to find the best fuel for the future.
The development of new ideas is crucial to most industries, and the automotive industry is no exception. The concept car allows manufacturers to test out new ideas and find out what consumers want. Whether you are interested in automotive design or not, the car you drive today is part of that evolution.