Chas makes a great point re aircraft being design largely for efficiency rather than looks. It'd be interesting to see what would happen if Ford and GM did concept cars stemming from a similar engineering imperative. There is actually something like this in the racing world. I couldn't find it on Google, but I recall at the car shows around five years ago, they were exhibiting a standardized chassis with roll cage etc, into which anyone could pop their own engine and drive train.
That makes sense, Chuck. I wonder if that will change as we now seem to be entering a period of healthy automaker profits. Or, it could be that cost-cutting measures will become a fixed position. Of course, that could change if one company broke out with something new and was rewarded with increased sales.
Frankly, chuck, I think Detroit would have done well to produce some of their previous, wilder concept cars. They got a little too stodgy.
As for hybrids, I find it somewhat less than exciting.There are shops that will install a hybrid drive train in an existing car.It is pricey, but if you have the money and desire, it can be done.So, while it is an interesting design challenge, it is not "exciting" technology.The trick is to make them efficient and inexpensive.That is where they will have an impact.For cars, the trick is to come out, continuously, with incremental improvements.A 10% improvement in effeciency across the board is a huge thing.In the US, I think about 15M to 20M cars are sold each year.If I have my figures right, that is on the order of 10% of the vehicle fleet.So, each 10% increase in effeciency is 1% overall.While there is some room for small cars like the Smart Car, the appeal there is limited.It is cute, though.I drove one once at Beaulieu, in the UK.It was fun, but I was not convinced (my car back then was an Alfa Romeo).
Rob: I believe the issue with concept cars today is lack of money. Designers are being pushed to create concept cars that hint, maybe not so subtly, at upcoming production vehicles. The era of wildness, when designers could really let it out, is mostly back in the rear-view mirror. Honda's Accord concepts, for example, will actually be coming out later this year as production vehicles.
Nice slide show, Chuck. I was struck by a couple new designs -- the Chrysler 700 C is certainly a new look for the minivan, and the Volkswagon Bug Roadster is also an interesting look. But I agree with Alex, much of the advances are under the hood.
What struck me most about this crop of concept cars is the generally conservative approach to design. My take is that when tech isn't advancing (like say 20 years ago), the designers really go to town on external body shell. These days, the progress is under the hood, in the power train etc. So perhaps that's why these concept cars look so much more like real production cars -- and in fact some of the will be soon; at least one in 2013.
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