2010 Citroen Survolt ConceptEnlarge Photo
As you approach the auto show venue, no matter whether it's Detroit, New York or Geneva, the feeling is the same: your heart beats a littler faster, your pulse races, and it's a little hard to catch your breath. Waiting inside are all kinds of models, from the exotic to the muscular to the downright smokin' hot and sexy. Yes, those sirens are calling your name. Nobody goes to the big auto shows to see the mundane. People go for the concept cars, and every year there is something to amaze us.
At the 2007 Detroit auto show, Chevy promised us the Volt. It looked sleek and made us think that driving a hybrid wouldn't be all that bad. We could make an environmental statement while making a statement about ourselves - cool, powerful, and yet eco-concerned.
A couple of months later in Geneva, Hyundai awed the world with their groundbreaking QarmaQ. A collaboration between Hyundai and GE Plastics created a crossover vehicle that would have people crossing the road to take a closer look. This was no bland, soccer-mom's five-door, but a futuristic vision where metal was not required and paint was replaced with color-molded plastic.
One thing concept cars all have in common: their exotic materials. Steel and iron are soooo twentieth century. These babies are all titanium and carbon-fiber. Ceramic pistons and magnesium blocks. And possibly other secret materials only found at Area 51. And these cars aren't just show queens. Many of them can get speeds approaching 300 mph, speeds no police pursuit helicopter can match.
But don't even think of offering these fast ladies any ordinary drink - many of them will only gulp exotic fuels. The Corvette Indy 500 pace car drinks 200-proof alcohol, which gives a whole new meaning to drinking and driving. Just sniffing the fumes during refueling will have you failing a sobriety test!
And what about the ultimate concept car? The flying car, always a crowd-pleaser, was first introduced before the second World War, but here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, and we are still closer to the Flintstones than the Jetsons!
But something happens between the concept car leaving the auto show and arriving at the dealership. In fact, most concept cars get lost along the way and never make it to the car showroom. The most craved cars at the big auto shows are the ones that vanish and are never seen again.
The ones that do make it undergo some weird backward makeover. Their trim lines and muscular bodies seem to acquire middle-aged spread and a frumpy wardrobe. Gone are the exotic metals and powerful engines. Steel makes a comeback along with off-the-shelf parts. Exciting body-styling is morphed onto a pre-existing model, and the result is an uneasy, schizophrenic blend. Sometimes it seems that the only thing left from the concept car are the decals! We fell in love with Cinderella but somehow went home with the ugly sister.
Signing up to buy a concept car that is allegedly going to be available to the public is a little like online dating - the hot picture baiting you in is not what you get in real life, as Jaguar buyers found out in 1988 when they lined up by the hundreds to get the XJ220 concept car. Jaguar couldn't make a street-legal version of the V-12, so they provided a 3.5-liter V-6, and the four-wheel drive was gone. Customers were pissed, and some demanded their money back, claiming it was a bait-and-switch.
So this year, dear Automotive Industry, please, please, please give us something close to those automotive carrots that make us breathless and our palms go sweaty. If cars say something about ourselves, I would like my car to say that I am more Bar Rafaeli than Roseanne Barr!
What? You haven't heard? High Gear Media is bringing one lucky, talented car enthusiast to the 2011 New York Auto Show. We're searching for the greatest auto-show moment of your life--stories like this one. Once you get your "moment" published, you're eligible to win a trip for two to New York City, along with insider access to the show. Just sign up here and tell us your best auto-show memory, and stay tuned for the winners!