Concept cars, once used by designers to hint at the distant future, are now used mostly by carmakers to preview cars already designed. In order to generate more news coverage most companies "disguise" the final model with a few predictable alterations to make the "concept" seem futuristic. As a PSA for automakers, here's eleven steps to follow to turn your new model into a "concept car."
As evidenced by the production Honda Insight, production cars and concept cars roll in majorly different ways. Concept cars get gigantic, futuristic-looking wheels on slick hand-cut tires which, by comparison, make the production versions look like they're driving around on steel donuts.
Whether it's because they want to obscure what's going on inside or because it just looks cool, you'll find few concept cars without darkly tinted windows. In some cases, as with the Soueast X1 Hybrid GT, it obscures the fact that the car has no interior.
LED lights are awesome but, in most cases, they end up being relegated to service at the rear of production versions of the car (except for everything from Audi). The Honda Insight Concept was nothing but LED lights, which were dropped for the 2010 Honda Insight production version because those things are seriously expensive.
No one in the future will ever open a door by using a handle. Either you press a tiny button (as with the Insight) and the door opens itself or you think about it and the door leans forward in some sort of Gullwing-scissor door combination. Or, as with the Land Rover LRX Concept, you just don't put any door handles on at all.
When cars go into production you get mostly basic choices like red, black, blue, sliver, green or white. Rarely do these colors end up on a concept car. You've got your electric blues, magical greens and lacquered creams. Volvo, for some reason, always paints cars like a surf rescue vehicle because the Germans love Baywatch.
Apple products, like the iPhone and iPod, are the measure by which all modern design is measured. They're also considered "cool" by almost everyone. Therefore, every concept has to work in conjunction with an iPod. The LRX uses one as a smart key. The Hummer HX records your off-road videos and downloads them to an iPhone. In the case of the Volt, the entire command console looks like an iPod.
No one in the future will have legs or working spines, at least if you're to believe concept cars. The seats are slung impossibly low and the back seats fit together in ways even Cirque Du Solei performers would find uncomfortable.
Look at a concept car steering wheel and you'll wonder if the government hasn't repealed the airbag requirement on new cars. Though most follow the standard three-spoke design, these futuristic wheels are made of leather, metal and typically clean and smooth even though the production version will almost certainly be black and covered with buttons.
The high-angle, three-quarter perspective is the one typically used for news articles and press shots. Why not throw on a panaromic glass roof? It worked for the Ford Verve. In the case of the Maybach 62 design study they just removed the roof outright.
Concept vehilces, especially for premium automakers, are designed to encourage buyers to see themselves in the brand's luxurious appointments. For the Lincoln MKT Concept, this means a dash inspired by Swarovski crystal. For the Nissan above, it means headlights that look like Jewels. For the ConceptFASCINATION from Mercedes, that means actual crystal glasses and a jewel-encrusted humidor. Fancy!
Designers and marketers understand that sticking a pretty piece of flesh in front of a not-so-attractive piece of metal is an easy way to draw attention to your car. If it's an expensive luxury car put a woman in a gown in front of it. If it's an exotic sports car make sure she's wearing a cocktail dress. If the concept is hip and urban make sure the model looks like she'd give you the clap.