Concept cars are designed to get the media and customers excited about upcoming designs, plans, models, and offerings. They are often used as an exercise to show everyone what the brand is capable of doing. There are times, however, when the concept does not translate well to reality. Futuristic tech, fancy designs, and hyper-performance eventually lose their luster during the production process. Get ready to hear about awesome concepts that, sadly, only got watered down in the end.
2016 Buick Avista
A 400 hp, twin-turbo 2+2 coupe to debut at the 2016 North American International Auto Show. This car brought something to the world that Buick has been lacking since the ‘50s. The low-slung flowy design also attracted a lot of attention. It was hyped up to be the American version of an Aston-Martin. Sadly, nothing from the Avista translated to any of the models they released.
2008 Mitsubishi Concept-RA
In 2008, Mitsubishi appeared at the North America International Auto Show with this front-engine, 4-wheel drive concept car thought to be the next Eclipse. It had a 2.2-L clean diesel engine, an aluminum space frame chassis, and twin-clutch transmission. However, none of it ever made it to the aging Eclipse. As a matter of fact, Mitsubishi did not change the Eclipse much up to its demise in 2012.
2010 Audi Quattro Concept
In 2010, the Audi Quattro Concept dropped at the Paris Motor Show and went on to be one of the talking points of that exhibition. Meant to be a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Audi Quattro, it was a lightweight, short wheel-base version of the RS5. It had 402 hp and a 6-speed manual transmission, so it promised to revive the original Quattro Coupe. Sadly, the project just got shelved.
2006 Saab Aero-X
Saab is best known for its futuristic and wild concept cars. The company took the Aero-X to the 2006 Salon International de l’Auto. It ran on a twin-turbo V6 engine that ran on pure ethanol and an all-wheel drive. The Aero-X seemed like it was going to have solid performance. People loved how the canopy opens up and out. This car was slated to make an appearance in Transformers as well. Unfortunately, Saab did not have the budget to make the car. None of its other units carried any of its features either.
1976 Chevrolet Aerovette
This mid-engine Corvette concept car was made in 1969 and reached the final iteration in 1976. It had a low drag shape and gull-wing doors. The Aerovette seemed like it was going to help Corvette go into supercar territory. Sadly, the concept did not get enough traction and was passed over for the normal front-engine layout. Corvette’s C3 generation, made around the same time, has been called the worst.
2011 Cadillac Ciel
The Ciel is what a Cadillac design should be like. It offers comfort, presence, luxury, and design. It was a huge 4-door convertible that made its debut at the Pebble Beach Concours in the hopes of showing their intentions of returning to their old luxury automaker status. Nothing in the lineup boasted of this much visual impact. The design, sadly, got watered down since the brand focused on mid-size sedan instead.
2011 Citroen Tubik
In 2011, Citroen hoped to improve its reputation by unveiling the Tubik. This concept car was a big change from their generic transport trucks, and fans loved it. A mini party bus sounded ideal to young customers! Sadly, people started to see its flaws after taking a closer look. The seating layout was not ideal for either the driver or the front passenger. It was also not versatile enough for modern buyers.
1995 Chrysler Atlantic
Chrysler dropped the Atlantic, a retro bomb, in 1995. This car paid homage to the ‘30s art deco cars and the iconic Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic. It is interesting to hear that it was powered by an 8-cylinder engine that was actually 2 Dodge Neon engines placed together. The design was either a miss or hit among potential buyers. It was never meant to go into production, but it did usher in the retro car design era. For Chrysler, it only birthed the boring Prowler and terrible PT Cruiser.
2011 MINI Cooper Rocketman
MINI introduced the Rocketman at the Geneva Auto Show of 2011. The design and execution were supposed to be faithful to the original Mini in an effort to return to the roots of the brand. At 11’3” long, it is only a bit larger than the original and came with 78 mpg. The Rocketman failed to launch, however. The offerings of the brand started to get bigger, have more features, and leave the ‘mini’ part behind.
2012 Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force
The Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force is a new take on off-road law enforcement vehicles. It was designed as the evolution of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon. This fuel cell-powered bruiser has an adjustable suspension as well as a roof-mounted 360-degree topography scanner. It is debatable if law enforcement agencies would use it, but its capabilities could have been adapted to other Mercedes models. Sadly, nothing ever came out of this concept car.
2008 Hummer HX
Hindsight is, without fail, 20/20. If the GM’s Hummer brand only followed through with the HX concept, maybe they could have gone toe to toe with the Jeep Wrangler. It was designed to be a 2-door slant-back off-roader with a V6 engine and a removable door as big as that in a Wrangler. It was supposed to be called the H4 but never got produced. It never materialized, and you can blame the $4 a gallon of gasoline price or the financial crisis of the time. The H2 and H3 Hummers did not get its off-road kit.
2015 Lexus LF-SA
Lexus revealed a high-end sub-compact car known as the LF-SA. It was supposed to be an efficient urban car with luxury offerings that is easy to park. Lexus then went in a different direction and focused more on bigger SUVs and sedans. While it would have been a great product for the brand, there is no market for a small and fun city car in the U.S. at the time.
2003 Cadillac Sixteen
The 2003 Sixteen concept car boasted of 1000 hp, 13.6-L of displacement, 16 cylinders, 4 doors, and a weight of 2.5 tons. The sleek and long sedan could have been the ultimate flagship model. It had the Cadillac logo in crystal on the steering wheel and a Bulgari dashboard clock. The flagship model did not emerge, and Cadillac went on with its rather milquetoast lineup of big sedans and SUVs.
2002 Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln Continental concept made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2002. It was seen as a tribute to the 1960s Continentals as well as a retro-futuristic masterpiece. It featured chiseled proportions and suicide rear doors. The big sedan had a 400 hp V12 engine. It was among the first vehicles to come with LED technology and fiber-optic lighting. Even though it got rave reviews, Ford axed its production after 2002 and never incorporated its concepts. Talk about a reality fail!
2012 Jeep Mighty FC
Jeep unveiled the Mighty FC (Forward Control) at the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. This is a throwback design to the cab over Jeeps of the ‘50s and ‘60s with off-road suspension, trick portal axles, and a modern drivetrain. This utilitarian off-roader had a pickup truck bed but never reached production. At the very least, only portions of this concept car turned available in kit form.
1985 Ford Probe V
Ford introduced the Prove V, the last incarnation of aerodynamic design studies series, in 1985. It was styled by Ghia, a design house, and came with sliding doors and a mid-mounted engine. It directly influenced the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable and the production of the 1988 Ford Probe. Ford invested a lot in its “aero-design,” which made cars efficient, although it did not turn the Taurus/Sable any better than a regular sedan. This looked great on paper but failed to translate well in reality.
2005 Holden Efijy
Holden is the Australian division of GM. The Efijy was made as a tribute to the Holden FJ from 1953. It is based on a Corvette chassis and powered by an LS2 V8 engine with 600 hp. While it is Australian in both construction and design, it took home the 2007 U.S. Concept Car of the Year Award. The Holden Commodore and Monaro got its V8 engines and muscle car cred, Efijy did not make any other impact.
2001 Suzuki GSX-R/4
Suzuki presented a concept car that combined its motorcycle tech and a high-performance open-wheel race car. Its power came from the Hayabusa motorbike, which meant it can go up to 180 mph. Its chassis, influenced by open-wheel race cars, promised a street-legal car with race car performance. The GSX-R/4 was presented at the 2001 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was never meant for production, but Suzuki wanted to use its chassis engineering in their street cars. This did not happen, however.
2002 Cadillac Cien
In 2002, Cadillac introduced its mid-engine supercar with a V12 engine inspired by an F-22 fighter jet. It was a great concept car to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the brand. Customers were sad to hear that they could not purchase anything exciting. The Ciel appeared in a number of video games, but its engine, chassis, fun, or tech did not show up again in any actual car.
1997 Dodge Copperhead
Dodge followed the success of the Viper with the Copperhead concept car, which was introduced at the 1997 North American International Auto Show. It was supposed to be a slimmer Viper with a 220 hp V6 engine under the hood. It was focused on driving and handling pleasure, although the project got canceled in 2000. Dodge did not give us a fun-to-drive roadster but the boring Avenger and Stratus. Its engine and mechanicals appeared in other Dodge models but without the same verve or zest.
2011 Scion FR-S
Toyota was using the Scion brand to attract younger customers. The company had been doing great with small and affordable cars when it decided to make a sports car. The FR-S was a big hit at car shows. Scion must have assumed that this would mean good sales in practice. When it was released to the general public, it fizzled out. There was nothing wrong with it, but it seems like consumers did not like it all that much.
2013 Subaru Impreza WRX
Subaru redesigned the Impreza WRX in 2013. The small car was a staple in their lineup for almost 20 years, but execs thought it was getting stale. This new concept blew viewers away, but this was not recreated when it was finally released. The Impreza WRX was not that impressive or even different from the old iteration. Subaru might have thought they had a winner on their hands, but they were wrong.
2005 Ford SYNus
In 2005, Ford thought outside the box upon the unveiling of the SYNus concept car. They wanted a car with a tough exterior but a soft and high-end interior. In the end, it just looked like a bank vault. It was not surprising to hear that customers were not fans of it. On top of this, it was undersized as well.
2005 Hummer H3
Fuel-efficient and compact cars were popular at the turn of the century. Hummer followed suit at last in 2005 with the reveal of the H3. It was the smaller and eco-friendlier version of their famous car. The new H3 did not make any waves. It was in production for 5 years before it finally got canceled. This also meant the demise of the Hummer brand since GM announced its discontinuation in the same year.
2003 Chevy SSR
In 2003, Chevrolet wanted a fun new retro-inspired car. This was what they had in mind when they made the SSR. This odd-looking car was unique, and we do not mean it in a good way. A convertible truck might be quirky, but it was not consumer-friendly. The reception to its design was good, but this excitement did not translate to good sales. It was on the market for 3 years until it was discontinued.
2008 Scion Hako Coupe
The Scion Hako Coupe was an odd car with its boxy and outdated design. The general idea behind it was not as strange as its appearance. Scion wanted to make new cars for the younger members of its customer base. Toyota hoped to design new cars for this reason. Toyota wanted to make new cars and used Scion as a kind of experimental branch to try this out without hurting their stock.
2009 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
The Nissan Murano came out in 2002. After 7 years, Nissan introduced the Murano CrossCabriolet, a concept car that deserved more drawing room time. Nissan committed the biggest automaking sin in their quest to be innovative. This was a convertible crossover, a radical idea back in 2009. Nissan wanted to be ahead with the next big car trend and turned it into a top down cruiser. It met its demise in 2014.
2002 Lincoln Blackwood
This luxury pickup was made to attract a certain demographic. However, it only managed to confuse the masses with its tiny flatbed and body pinstripes. When the public got access to it, they did not have many upgrade choices or the option to get rid of the pinstripes. Lincoln came up 20 percent short of the projection they made on their sales expectations. They managed to get rid of it before it got out of hand.
2011 Chevrolet Volt
The Chevy Volt is a popular and recognizable plug-in car. It was a huge disaster when it was released, however. In 2011, Chevy jumped on the electric plug-in bandwagon and then rushed the concept to the market! They had an enthusiastic initial reaction, but sales sagged as maintenance issues arose. Let us give the brand credit for overcoming a storm like this! It is now the 2nd best-selling plug-in vehicle ever.
2006 Dodge Charger
In 2006, consumers were ecstatic when they heard Dodge announce the comeback of the Charger. It was a lineup staple for years until it disappeared. The new Charger was going to honor the past but bring it into the future too. This might have been a bigger hit if it came in 1999, the actual announced date, but it became a tougher sell 7 years after that.
2008 Toyota A-Bat
This concept truck was made public back in 2008. The Toyota A-Bat was a very stylized vehicle that left people confused about its actual concept. The good news? It never did go into production. Clearly, Toyota learned a lesson with this design. People in need of a pickup truck want it to look just like one!
2002 Chevy Bel Air
The Bel Air was the attempt of Chevy to make a futuristic car that looked like it could have come from the past. Chevy wanted to add excitement by using the Bel Air name. The result of their hard work was this car, which no one knew what to make of. It was an interesting car, but consumers were not thrilled.
2001 Toyota Pod
We bet Toyota wishes that it could take back this concept car. The Pod was an odd collaboration between Toyota and Sony to make the most futuristic car possible. The result was fascinating! This car had lots of features like stools in lieu of seats and driving tablets in lieu of wheels. It also had a switch that looked like a wagging tail. If you were wondering, this car did not make it past the concept phase.
2001 Dodge Super 8 Hemi
The Dodge Super 8 Hemi tried to combine Dodge’s signature SUVs and trucks into a single vehicle. This awkward-looking car was on display at the 2001 North American International Auto Show. People were disappointed by it. The idea of it was exciting, but the execution was a failure.
1990 Pontiac Sunfire
Oh, if only Pontiac just had the confidence to release it to the public! The Sunfire was a great concept car with awesome technology and looks. It is too bad that the company got cold feet and shelved it in 1990. Five years after that, Pontiac released a safe and unexciting Sunfire instead. What a shame.
1986 Pontiac Trans Sport
In 1986, the company joined the NASA bandwagon and made a concept car that looked like a spaceship! The Trans Sport is a family van whose concept was received positively, so it was odd that Pontiac did not follow through. In the end, it released a watered-down version of the Trans Sport. Few of the original features made it to the actual model since most of them were too expensive to add.
2000 Pontiac Aztek
Not a lot changed with the Pontiac Aztek. The company learned its lesson and wanted to roll the dice with this anticipated car. However, the problem lies in the niche target market. This car was aimed at outdoors enthusiasts who liked to go camping. It was designed to make it easy for one to spend some time in the woods. However, it did not perform quite as well on the freeway.
1997 Pontiac Rageous
We would like to give this company a break but let us not forget about the Rageous. From its design to its name, there was nothing admirable about it. It was built like a Firebird but got turned into an odd hatchback car with a drop-down tailgate. A Pontiac employee even said, “It provoked the [deleted word] out of upper management. When Pontiac comes out of the closet, we really come out.”
1999 Honda Fuya-Jo
We are glad to hear that the Honda Fuya-Jo did not live past its concept stage. This odd little vehicle was meant to be a moving nightclub. Passengers got up, speakers lined the walls, and the steering wheel looked like a turntable. Isn’t that great? The target audience was the party-hardy young ones, but it did not appeal to anyone outside of that demographic.
2001 Honda Unibox
Yes, Honda actually made this concept car in 2001. It did not live past its concept stage. You can probably figure out why this is the case. Who wants to drive around in a 6-wheeled, clear-bodied car? We hope that Honda does not plan to produce it. Honestly, who would even consider buying one?
1998 Buick Signia
Since crossovers are so common these days, you’d think that designing one is the simplest thing to do. However, that wasn’t the case in the early years. The 1998 Buick Signia clearly shows that. The designers had the right idea – to go a little taller, add all-wheel drive, and create a squared-off area. But they had plenty of bad ideas as well – the swollen grille, the wide rear fenders, and the tacked-on glass hatchback. The saddest part is when Buick’s first production crossover, the Rendezvous came about, it didn’t look much better than this.
1999 Buick Cielo
After the previous year’s disaster of the Signia, Buick went right back to sedans in 1999. The melted-looking Cielo was the sad, sad result. The grille was said to be inspired by the famous Y-Job. The body sides referenced classic Buicks as well. All of this suggests that at times, it’s best to leave the past be and not bring it back around. Truth be told, the sides look more like an unfortunate roller coaster.
2000 Mercedes-Benz Vision SLA
To Mercedes-Benz, the SL defines the roadster. For this reason, the brand has a hard time with the idea once it’s too far removed from the SL’s grand proportions. This difficulty is painfully clear with the Vision SLA. Luckily, most of what we see here – the exposed shock towers, the mesh hood sections, the side-view mirrors that are connected to the fender tops – has never made it to production. Although, the same nose did adorn later versions of the SL, the SLK, and the Mercedes SLR McLaren.
2001 BMW X Coupe
Even before its execution, the idea of basing a two-door coupe on the X5 chassis is a terrible one. The X coupe does nothing to help matters, either. All it does is slather awkwardly in its weird proportions in BMW’s signature flame surfacing. This never makes anything look good, that’s for sure. In all honesty, we should all take a moment to be grateful that the X6 didn’t end up turning out this way.
2001 Dodge Super8 Hemi
With a wraparound windshield and reverse-canted A-pillars, the Dodge Super8 Hemi has a 1950s look we never thought we’d see again. However, during the era where retro was all the rage at the turn of the century, Dodge went all-out with this car. The odd sedan had plenty of other ’50s touches like bench seats. It also had one tire in the future with an Infotronic system – it enabled limited internet access.
2002 Chevrolet Bel Air
Chevrolet created the Bel Air with the intention of paying homage to the iconic ’55-’57 Chevys. Instead, this design just proved that GM’s mid-20th century era of styling was long gone. The car had no available rear-drive passenger-car chassis and was based on the TrailBlazer SUV. As a result, it ended up looking thick-waisted and strange. Almost like an old flame you hardly recognize at your 30-year high school reunion. Other than the familiar logo on the grille, there isn’t much to see that reminds us of classic Chevys.
2002 Kia KCV-II
Before the arrival of Peter Schreyer, Kia was rather lost in the world of styling. This is made crystal clear by the KCV-II. The most disturbing part of this car is by far the brushed metal band that looks almost like a retainer trying to rein in the grille on the pickup/hatchback/SUV hybrid. We’re sure that whenever Schreyder wants to get a raise, all he needs to do is flash this picture for it to be done.
2004 Volkswagen Concept T
In the 2004 Detroit auto show, VW sprang the Concept T car. It definitely surprised and frightened the audience there. It takes a special kind of skill to take a light-hearted idea like the Meyers Manx dune buggy and transform it into something as off-putting as this. With a bizarre front and rear fender treatment, a shell that seems to be lifted from the pedestrian Passat, and the terribly thick quarters, this car is not one that should be produced.
2006 Chrysler Imperial
Seeing as the Chrysler 300 successfully imitated Bentley’s styling, it’s not surprising to see the Imperial trying to ape Rolls-Royce’s styling with a car that’s over a foot longer and almost six inches taller than the 300. Even though it had center-opening doors, an upright grille, and 22-inch wheels, this car looked more like a Chinese knockoff of a Rolls rather than a luxury vehicle. It’s rather worrying that Chrysler seriously considered this car for production for a while.
2006 Acura Advanced Sedan
The Acura Advanced sedan was meant to create a vision of luxury for Acura. However, this design is not going to do it. The beak-like grille just makes the car look almost sinister. The overall design seems to be an ode to the Batmobile as an attempt to bring it to the streets. According to designer Dave Marek, the manufacturer had a certain idea in mind with this car: “Actually, we just wanted to build the baddest, biggest, meanest luxury sedan we could.”
2011 Suzuki Regina
When it debuted, the Suzuki Regina can be said that it had elements of the NSU Prinz 4 and the Citroën DS, but in reality, that just made it sound cooler than it actually is. More than anything, the car looks like a blob, one that Suzuki threatened to set loose on the world as its next global subcompact. Somehow, this car managed to combine eyelash-like cornering lights, rear-wheel spats, and an almost frowning grille. Overall, not a good look.
2012 Bentley EXP 9 F
It’s not shocking that Bentley succumbed and built an SUV. What is shocking is the EXP 9 F concept. Once the wraps were taken off at the expo, we can safely say that plenty of jaws hung open. For the next two years, Bentley executives spent their time backing away from the fact that the production version would look like this. Eventually, this concept vehicle was scrapped, and Bentley started over and created the Bentayga.
2005 Mercedes-Benz Bionic Car
Mercedes’ Bionic car was introduced at the Daimler Chrysler Innovation Symposium in Washington, D.C. When it was introduced, this car had just one job in mind – to lower emissions. Despite the fact that it was powered by a 1.9L turbodiesel engine, it features up to 80% less nitrogen oxide emissions thanks to its Selective Catalytic Reduction technology. This was very advanced at the time, but the car itself does not showcase great design. The car was modeled after a fish, after all. A Yellow Boxfish, in fact, that lives in coral reefs.
1999 Chrysler PT Cruiser
We know how the PT Cruiser has a loyal fanbase to this day seeing as it’s a versatile car. All the same, if you’d look up the Chrysler Pronto concept that came before this one, you probably wonder why they changed it so much. The Pronto had a sleeker frame, giving it a modern look. Its coupe body catered to a younger generation as well. While we got a small taste of that with the PT Cruiser GT Convertible, it still lacked in its design compared to the Pronto.
2003 Dodge Avenger
It turns out that the Dodge Avenger lived two lives – neither were too successful, though. At the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, the name ended up on a car that was nothing like its two production examples. The Avenger was actually a predecessor to the “crossover coupe” fad that is happening now. Essentially, it was the X4 and X6 before they came to be. It was a jacked-up four-door coupe with all-wheel drive and a sloped rear hatch. While it’s not ideal today, in 2003, it was very innovative.
1998 Packard Twelve
This concept car was an attempt to revive the long-gone Packard brand. The idea came to Roy Gullickson, an entrepreneur, and engineer, back in 1991. He finally got the rights and completed the car in 1998 with the help of Lawrence Johnson, another automotive engineer. Unfortunately, their decade-long labor was an unsightly $1.5 million investment. The all-wheel-drive was presented at the 25th-anniversary celebration of Arizona Packards in Tuscon. The only good things that came of this car was the custom-built 573-horsepower V12 mill and the fact that it was sold for $143,000 at an auction in 2014.
2008 Tang Hua Book of Songs
Some might think of this ugly duckling as cute, but in terms of concept cars, this is as bad as it gets. Even its name is questionable. Naming a car “Book of Songs” is like naming your firstborn “Velcro”. This concept is a petite electric car with a small electric motor in the front and no trunk. Needless to say, its appearance is, well, awful. Our analogy earlier was a little too accurate – this car really does look like a cartoon duck.
1989 Plymouth Voyager 3
Back in 1989, America was happily in a minivan frenzy. Nearly all domestic and Asian import automakers had at least one model of minivans in their line-up. Naturally, Chrysler was the king since they’d invented it in the first place. They also tried squeezing out as many model types as possible since it was so in demand then. So, the designer at Chrysler decided to create a three-seat mini car for rides around town that could be hitched onto a larger, self-powered unit that carried an extra five passengers. However, the design was about as appealing as an airport car rental bus. After this happened, no one else tried doing anything similar, and for good reason.
2010 Sbarro Autobau
At first, the Sbarro Autobau was presented in Geneva and it most definitely shocked the crowd. Easily one of the ugliest cars we’ve ever seen, this concept car needs to stay that way – a concept. It was made to be a tribute to the Swiss racer, Fredy Lienhard. However, you have to wonder whether Franco Sbarro secretly hated the guy seeing this car’s appearance. The only good part about it is its beauty of an engine: a V12 Ferrari mill packing 500 horsepower that’s stuck in the back.
1994 Plymouth Expresso
The mid-1990s were not great for those at Chrysler. The company descended into bankruptcy and needed a government bail-out to survive their debt. Suddenly, they were the talk of the industry with their new models. The Neon was seen as a genuine import fighter while the new Ram made Dodge a player in the light truck segment once again. Maybe they were a little too giddy when they released the concept for the Plymouth Expresso. This car would have gotten better reviews had it been debuted in Tokyo rather than Chicago, in all honesty.