The Truth About (Concept) Cars

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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the truth about concept cars

It is auto-show season.

Or at least, it would be in a “normal” year.

Normally, we’d be in New York, bringing you all the concepts from the New York International Auto Show, usually held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side.

This year, with the world still mostly on pause, we’re at home, missing the sights and sounds.

But that gives us a chance to step back and reconsider something about auto shows: The concept cars themselves.

Many of you may already know this, but for some of you — particularly younger readers — it might be worth it to take a step back and have a refresher of the truth about concept cars.

For those of you who don’t remember the history of auto shows, there was a time when concept cars were glorious machines that previewed what automakers (and sometimes media) saw as a fantastic future. Even if many of these cars had to be pushed on and off stage.

Over time, the idea of the fantastical concept car preview a fantastical future has faded. Mostly gone are the days where a sleek concept was laden with technology that wouldn’t be on sale for years, if ever. Mostly gone are the days when the concept cars were so crazy-looking that one wondered how they could ever make production. Which, to be clear, most didn’t.

Concept cars were once meant to get attention at an automaker’s show stand. Some of the technology and mechanical features might eventually make it into production, and occasionally so did toned-down styling elements.

The game has changed due to cost and other reasons. Show-stopping concepts downshifted, becoming previews of next-gen cars. At first, these concepts were still a bit more wild than mild, but they were closer to production cars in terms of design, technology, and mechanical underpinnings than the concepts that came before.

Now, most concept cars are thinly-veiled previews of the production unit — if they exist at all. Sometimes, automakers don’t even bother with a concept, opting to simply take the wraps off a car that’s pretty much production-ready.

Those concepts that remain tend to hew closely to production plans. Maybe there’s a styling element here or a tech feature there that won’t make production, but what you see on the show stand isn’t terribly different from what you’ll eventually see on the showroom floor.

That’s a shame, since the wonderfully crazy concepts were great for driving attention to brands. Everyone from the automotive media to the average auto-showgoer could be wowed by a concept, and these show cars likely drove many a daydream.

Some radical concepts still exist, and we can’t wait to see them in person again.

That said, the truth about concept cars is that most are just boring now. Make concept cars great again.

[Images: Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Nissan]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for, CarFax,, High Gear Media, Torque News,,, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as,, and He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 8 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Mar 30, 2021

    If you were a super-mediocre sports team, would you do a lot of trash talking before each game? Probably not. Yet this is the role of 'concept cars' from the legacy OEM's. Refer to the five vehicles here and note the year each was 'introduced': What is the point? ['This is what we could do if we wanted to, but we're not going to, so keep buying the actual crap we build?' I don't get it.]

  • Lichtronamo Lichtronamo on Mar 31, 2021

    What was laughable is that the car mags would continue to buy into the fantasy as if the concept was really headed for production as is, if only to sell copy. Ford had its Lincoln Continental concept and Ford 427 concept that essentially were styling exercises for the FWD Zephyr/MKZ and Fusion, or the Interceptor that was the same for the 2010 Taurus.

  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriors
  • RHD This looks like a lead balloon. You could buy a fantastic classic car for a hundred grand, or a Mercedes depreciationmobile. There isn't much reason to consider this over many other excellent vehicles that cost less. It's probably fast, but nothing else about it is in the least bit outstanding, except for the balance owed on the financing.
  • Jeff A bread van worthy of praise by Tassos.
  • Jeff The car itself is in really good shape and it is worth the money. It has lots of life left in it and can easily go over 200k.
  • IBx1 Awww my first comment got deletedTake your “millennial anti theft device” trope and wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones keeping manuals around.