Automakers Need To Stop Making Leaning Car Concepts

The Nissan Land Glider Concept will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show and will be as pointless as every leaning concept car before it. Nobody's ever mass-produced one, and we doubt anyone ever will.

A good percentage of the staff here at Jalopnik are also motorcycle riders, so we get it, we understand the draw to the idea of a leaning automobile. It can provide for incredibly entertaining performance characteristics, they can look incredibly cool and it's a wonderful engineering challenge. Getting the wheel kinematics right for acceptable ride and safe handling while making the vehicle actively lean is no small feat, but in the end, leaning concepts like the Nissan Land Glider are largely pointless.


Nissan's claiming the Land Glider "gives a clear direction to how a future small car from Nissan could look in congested cities," but a "clear direction" more than likely means design direction. But why are we so pessimistic? Basic consumer behavior. Building a leaning car with the Land Glider as an example requires complex controllers, motors, actuators and sensors which don't exist on normal, non-leaning cars. They require tires entirely unique to the specific car. The necessarily narrow design demands tandem seating, which is inconvenient at best and uncouth for female passengers at worst. Because of the packaging constraints, cargo space is limited even though they can be powered, as the Land Glider is, by a pair of electric motor and an array of lithium-ion batteries. All of this in a car which takes a subcompact length vehicle and cuts two thirds of the width out.

And then we come to the bottom line; because of the complex engineering challenges and unique parts, a completely unique assembly line necessitated by the vehicles shape, it's going to be a premium priced vehicle as well. The value proposition is a severely difficult sell in our minds, a gimmick car with a lot of sacrifices for a premium price, And that's just from the selling angle, we haven't even started thinking about negotiating the labyrinth of regulatory elements a leaning vehicle would have to pass, avoid, get waivers for, or design around. Then there's crash testing requirements. Good luck with those.

With magnetorheological dampers, we're at a point where roll can be essentially eliminated, and the Bose active damper system that never got picked up by a manufacturer could have done the leaning trick on a full-width car, but building a car that can lean over 17 degrees like the Land Glider is the stuff of auto shows and design experiments. We're not saying a leaning car will never be built, in fact we'd love to see one, but reality tells us it's just not in the cards and building these concept cars is a waste of good money. For the foreseeable future, if you want to experience a leaning vehicle, get a motorcycle.

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