Concept cars are just an expensive distraction that threatens the future viability of automakers

Every year at car shows (and CES), we see automakers release crazy concept vehicles that are promoted as being a window into the future of driving (or sitting). The latest to release a concept vehicle to arrive on the scene is from Bently, known as the EXP 100 GT concept it suffers the same issue as all other concept vehicles, it’s actually just an expensive distraction from what they should be working on, vehicles they can produce now.

In case you hadn’t realised, the automotive sector is going through its most substantial change ever, with the move to a fundamentally different drivetrain to electric from combustion engines and forget the manual vs auto discussion, autonomous vehicles are coming. Anything other than a laser-like focus on shipping product that meets new consumer expectations will risk the future of the company.

The brand names at the top of the sales charts are changing rapidly already and fast forward 10 years from now, you can expect plenty of sad stories like Blockbuster and Windows Phone. These failed business models were a result of companies not responding to wholesale changes in their industry. The automotive sector should learn from the disruption in the tech industry because that same disruption has arrived at your garage and it’s banging down the door with a sledgehammer.

Bently’s concept includes a crazy interior that could have 2, 3 or 4 seat configurations, a personal assistant that monitors occupant’s well-being and adjusts the temperature, seating position and environmental conditions by monitoring blood pressure, eye and head movements. These are just words in a press release of what some crazy designer came up with, none of this is built, works or would be implemented in a vehicle anytime soon.

The car also features a unique 3D organic LED, allowing light to interplay with the taillamps. A pretty simple test is to ask yourself, why hasn’t this been done before? The answer is because its a terrible idea. Body panels are different than lights on a car, for a very simple reason, if they’re damaged, they can easily be replaced. If an auto-maker ever produced this, any kind of damage would result in the entire rear end requiring replacement, likely at a price that would mean the vehicle is written off.

Then there are the insane 2 meter long doors (the whole car is 5 meters long). These doors open Lambo-style, which then creates a height issue. These are so unpractical that the only location you could open them would be outside.

The Bentley EXP 100 GT does the right thing in terms of a planned power unit, supposedly delivering four electric motors that offer a 0-100 km time of less than 2.5 seconds and a top speed of 300 km/h. The EV is slated to offer a range of 700km and thanks to fast charging can be charged to 80% in just 15 minutes.

Here’s the problem. None of that is true. These figures are all made up. Maybe they’re based on some math around the potential battery capacity and the known efficiency of electric motors vs the weight, but they haven’t build a car that performs like that, they built a show car, therefore it’s all theoretical.

I hope at this point you’re also asking, what’s the point of all this imagined future vehicle that will never be produced.

In theory, having a project like this allows designers and engineers to explore ideas that may individually make their way to a vehicle you could buy.

My argument is that concepts are the wrong way to do this. Sure it generates press for 5 minutes, but you just wasted a stupid amount of resources on developing a concept that doesn’t help your next vehicle, meanwhile, your competition is shipping vehicles that are faster, go faster and are cheaper than yours. Basically, your world is on fire and you are busy painting a nice picture.

Auto-makers should be going all-in on actually building production-prototypes, vehicles that are actually viably going to go on-sale, but need refinement, improvement and innovation to beat the competition.

The typical production cycle end-to-end used to be around 6 years, some auto-makers have that down to 4, so there’s no point trying to imagine what cars will be in 10-20 years. Focus on the short-term and pay acute attention to being at the forefront of technology in the industry and you could be handsomely rewarded.

Take a look at a new, technology-first companies like Tesla and Rivian, these new auto-makers are only showing cars that are seriously close to production-ready. Take Tesla’s Model 3 for example, unveiled at the March 31st, 2016 event, the car is extremely close to the final production model. This shows the company put the effort into designing and engineering the product to be sold, not for the next car event.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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