What is a Concept Car & Why Manufacturers Showcase It?

Concept car

What is a Concept Car or Prototype?

The Concept Car or prototype is one of the most critical design stages of designing and developing new cars. So, it is the fundamental idea or the car’s very basic structure as drawn on the drawing board. Most manufacturers have departments with dedicated teams that work on a concept vehicle. The ‘concept car’ is the preliminary stage of the final product. In other words, it gives insights into the actual vehicle being launched in the future.

Renault Concept car or prototype
Renault Concept car or prototype

A concept car could be a designer’s or manufacturer’s idea about how the actual car would be in terms of design, looks, and appearance. It also decides what type of car it will be, such as a Sedan, a Hatchback, a Coupe, an SUV or MPV, etc. Thus, it narrows down the scope of work for the designers and pre-production teams. These days, many freelance designers and start-ups worldwide work on the concepts and publish their work on social media.

Concept Car: Evolution

Earlier, the concept cars used to be just wooden structures (or, at times, the sheet-metal models), which showcased only how the car would look. They did not specify much of the main provisions, such as the car’s power train and other features. Nowadays, the concepts got glamorous and are primarily complete in every aspect. As a result, they are more popular than ever before. It is mainly because they are futuristic. Also, they give an idea of what to expect in the coming years.

Apple concept car (Image Courtesy: MotorTrend)
Apple concept car (Image Courtesy: MotorTrend)

Manufacturers load the concept cars with all the features that the actual vehicle would offer at the launch. Thus, it helps the prospective buyers get more accurate information about the product they will buy. However, there could be some minor changes in the actual car’s specifications at the launch compared to the concept. The concept car may also feature vital exterior elements such as LED headlights, tail lamps, anti-pinch windows, rear cameras, etc. It could also showcase the specific interior key features such as the type of seats, upholstery, and dashboard.

Automotive Shows:

These days, many countries worldwide host the Automotive Shows or Auto Expo, which attract manufacturers and prospective buyers alike. Some of the most visited Auto Shows in the world are as per the following.

  1. Detroit Autorama – USA
  2. New York Auto Show – USA
  3. Geneva Motor Show – Europe
  4. Paris Auto Show – France
  5. Frankfurt Motor Show – Germany
  6. British International Motor Show – UK
  7. Australian International Motor Show – Australia
  8. Tokyo Motor Show – Japan
  9. Seoul Motor Show – Korea
  10. Auto Expo, New Delhi – India
  11. Shanghai Motor Show – China
  12. Bangkok International Motor Show – Thailand

However, Frankfurt, Geneva, Detroit, Paris, and Tokyo are the ‘Big Five’ of them all. Automotive manufacturers participate in these Auto Shows to showcase their concept cars to the world. In addition, their participation in the Auto Shows helps them enable prospective customers to buy their products.

Concept Car vs Prototype Car

After finalizing the concept car, the manufacturers make the prototypes of the vehicle. These prototype cars are raw in nature. Therefore, manufacturers make them mainly for testing purposes. Manufacturers test these prototype cars in-house and on the roads to determine their effectiveness in the real world. The testing serves multiple purposes, such as calculating the performance and real-world efficiency. It can also point out any shortcomings/faults and indirectly market the concept car. If they find any defects, they can be rectified and/or make changes in the design before the vehicle’s official launch.

Tata Nexon Spy pics - Prototype car (Image Courtesy: Ameya)
Tata Nexon Spy pics – Prototype car

Most manufacturers always choose this route before launching their concept cars. However, the car-makers camouflage these vehicles with unique stickers/covers to avoid leaking the design’s crucial information to the general public/competitors. Sometimes, the manufacturers even hide the actual shape from the public view. Manufacturers use make-shift parts such as head/tail lamps, exterior fittings, etc. It is mandatory for a roadworthy vehicle as per the RTA rules.

Other Concept Vehicles:

The same concept applies to new motorcycles and trucks as well. However, the concept cars get maximum coverage in the media as the auto enthusiasts go crazy to glimpse the future vehicles.

Bajaj Platina spy pic - protptype
Bajaj Platina spy pic – prototype motorcycle

Many people also try to capture these camouflaged prototypes in their cameras while the manufacturers carry out road tests. Nowadays, most of these pictures go viral due to sharing thru’ social media, and many websites publish them.

Tata prototype truck undergoing testing on road.
Tata prototype truck undergoing testing on the road.

Pre-Production Car/ Pilot Batch:

After successfully testing the prototype cars, some manufacturers produce a pilot batch of vehicles, the ‘Pre-production’ version. Generally, these cars are not for sale. Instead, some manufacturers identify them by putting a ‘PP’ sticker on them. Typically, these ‘pre-production’ or ‘PP’ cars are manufactured only for in-house use.

Tata Nano F-Tronic grille with Honey-Comb design spy pic
Tata Nano Pre-Production car

Thus, the manufacturers can monitor the performance of these cars for R&D purposes. It is mainly for producing the cars with ‘zero-defect.’ If they show any failure/error, they carry out the final adjustments. It includes setting up the dies and other alterations to the assembly line before the mass production begins. After the engineers eliminate these faults, the prototype car undergoes testing again. Finally, after the engineers satisfy the results, the concept car goes into the final production.

Thus, it is how the concept car finally turns into a mass-production car model. After the production, the vehicles reach the dealers/distributors for retail sales.

Watch Bajaj RE60 Video featuring its Test Run here:

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