One of the most significant design stages in the design and development of new automobiles is the concept car or prototype. It is the core concept or construction of the automobile as depicted on the drawing board. Most car companies have divisions with specialized staff working on concept cars. The ‘concept vehicle’ is a prototype for the ultimate product. In other words, it provides information on the real vehicle that will be released in the future.

A concept automobile is a representation of how a designer or manufacturer envisions the final product in terms of form, appearance, and functionality. It also determines what sort of automobile it will be, such as a sedan, hatchback, coupe, SUV, or MPV, among other options. As a result, the scope of work for the designers and pre-production teams is reduced. Many freelance designers and start-ups all around the world are working on concepts these days and sharing their work on social media.

Evolution Of A Concept Car

Buick Y-Job (1938) – first concept car

Previously, concept vehicles were wooden constructions (or, on rare occasions, sheet-metal models) that solely showed how the car will appear. They left out a lot of the important details, such as the car’s powertrain and other characteristics. Nowadays, the concepts have become more attractive, and they are almost always comprehensive in every way. They’re more popular than they’ve ever been. This is due to the fact that they are futuristic. They also provide insight into what to expect in the next years.

The concept automobiles now include all of the characteristics that the actual car will have when it is released. As a result, it assists potential customers in obtaining more accurate information on the goods they intend to purchase. However, there may be some small differences in the specs of the real automobile compared to the concept at launch. Some external essential components, including as LED headlights, taillights, anti-pinch windows, and a rear camera, may be included in the concept car. It might also highlight crucial interior features including the type of seats, upholstery, and dashboard.

Prototype vs. Concept Car

Concept car (left) & prototype (right). Image Source: CNET

Following the completion of the concept car, the manufacturers create prototypes of the vehicle. These prototype automobiles are unfinished and designed only for testing reasons. The prototype automobiles are put to the test both in the lab and on the road to see how successful they are in the real world. Testing is used for a variety of objectives, including performance calculation and real-world efficiency. It can also bring up any flaws or flaws in the concept automobile and sell it indirectly. If any flaws are discovered, they can be corrected and/or design adjustments made prior to the vehicle’s formal introduction.

Before unveiling their concept vehicles, most automakers always take this path. However, to avoid revealing the design’s vital details to the general public/competitors, carmakers conceal these automobiles with specific stickers/covers. The real form is sometimes hidden from public view by the makers. Manufacturers sometimes utilize make-shift parts, such as head/tail lights, external fittings, and so on, when the components are still in the development stage since it is required by RTA standards for a roadworthy vehicle.

Smart

Smart Concept #1 showcased at the Munich Motor Show 2021. Image Source: Autocar India

Smart, for example, debuted the Concept #1 at the Munich Motor Show as a preview of its first SUV vehicle. They were the first “legacy manufacturer” to totally abandon internal combustion engines in 2019. Under new co-owner Geely, who now has a 50% interest in Smart, the business is starting on a radical product strategy.

The Concept #1 will mark the start of a significant new period for the brand, during which Geely will handle model development engineering while Mercedes will handle design. The idea is shaped like a small electric crossover and measures 4,290mm in length, 1,910mm in width, and 1,698mm in height. In terms of dimensions, it’s quite similar to Mercedes-electric Benz’s crossover, the EQA.

Cars in Pre-Production / Pilot Batch:

After successfully testing prototype vehicles, some manufacturers create a pilot batch of cars known as the “Pre-production” version. In most cases, these automobiles are not for sale. Some manufacturers identify them by affixing a “PP” label to their vehicles. In most cases, these ‘pre-production’ or ‘PP’ automobiles are exclusively built for internal use.

As a result, the manufacturers may track the performance of these vehicles for research and development objectives. This is mostly for the production of ‘zero-defect’ automobiles. They make the final modifications if the automobiles exhibit any malfunction or mistake.

It entails preparing the dies and making other changes to the assembly line before mass production begins. After the engineers have fixed these flaws, the prototype automobile is sent through another round of testing. The concept automobile is only put into final manufacturing if the engineers are satisfied with the results.

This is how a concept vehicle becomes a mass-market automobile model. Following manufacturing, the vehicles are delivered to dealers/distributors for retail sales.

Also, read: Mercedes-Geely owned Smart Concept #1 revealed