Everybody loves concept cars. Sure, plenty of folks like to say that concept cars are pointless styling exercises, statements of excess, and demonstrations of technologies that will never make it to production. But even those folks, when they’re done pontificating, stand there in admiration of whatever freakish creation is slowly rotating on the turnstile. At the 20223 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we got a whopping three concept cars — proof that CES is now the most important auto show on the calendar.
True: Two of those CES concept cars had very unfortunate names, and one was a bit of a reboot. Still, the quality of those flights of fancy made it abundantly clear that CES is for keeps on the automotive front. With that pesky Detroit auto show now well and truly out of the way, CES is clearly the biggest auto show in January, and there’s little reason to doubt it’ll be the biggest show of the year, too.
I’ve been attending CES since 2006. I was there when Ford became the first major manufacturer to debut a production car at CES, rolling out the Focus Electric in 2011. Despite that, I’ve never walked away from a Vegas show so excited about the automotive future.
Of the three concepts, the least concept-y was the Afeela, from Sony Honda Mobility. This was also the CES vehicle with the silliest name, though BMW would give it a run for its money. This first iteration of Afeela is an evolution of the Vision S that blew everyone’s mind at CES 2020. The 2023 flavor is much more tepid on the styling front compared to the old one. Okay, I’ll stop mincing words: It’s extremely boring to look at, a fact that no amount of displays in the bumpers can change. Still, you can’t help pondering what a car from Sony could be like to own.
The real shame is how long we’ll have to wonder about that. Sony says we won’t see a proper production car for another three years. Given how things are moving right now in the industry, that seems like a long time to wait.
The other great concept with a maybe not so great name is BMW’s i Vision Dee. Here, “Dee” stands for Digital Emotional Experience, but I can’t help thinking that someone in a Bavarian marketing team was listening to Wet Leg before they dialed in to a brainstorming meeting. Regardless of what we call this rose, its color-changing fenders were very, very sweet to behold.
I’ve witnessed fancy demos of E Ink displays at CES for well over a decade, everything from cereal boxes to wallpaper, and this was far and away the best. To see the car flash from a lurid yellow to a more traditional white with red and blue racing stripes just gets the creative juices flowing. I figure we’re a long way from this coming to production, but once it does, it’s going to be a revolution.
The final major concept was the Ram 1500 Revolution, which if anything had the worst name of the three concept cars on display. It’s hard to see an electric pickup truck as “revolutionary” when it comes to market years after the competition from Ford and Chevrolet. Still, it looked suitably badass, and I’m sure it’ll be great when it hits dealers sometime in 2024.
Even the non-concept car that debuted at CES was hugely impressive. VW’s all electric ID.7 promises up to 700 kilometers of range. Mind you, that’s the European WLTP cycle, so you can scale that down considerably for the EPA rating when it comes here. But, that should still mean somewhere in excess of 350 miles for what should be a comfortable, practical, and reasonably priced electric sedan. Best of all, it goes into production this year.
2023 was a great CES, a dramatic contrast to what we’ve seen at any other auto show in recent years. While I absolutely hate the logistical mess of trying to cover this sprawling, disorganized show as a journalist, I can’t help but be excited by the future that was on offer at this year’s CES. When was the last time an auto show made you feel like that?