Monday, September 15, 2014

Concept Cars That Should Be Built Right Now

It's fun and easy to pretend play with someone else's money and there is nothing better than imaging how you would run a multi-billion dollar auto company. Fantasy sports are a close second though. It's particularly fun to greenlight awesome concepts that brands have deserted over the years. Usually this involves ignoring technological feasibility or market demands but there are concepts that seem to be guaranteed slam dunks if they were produced. Here are a few concepts from the past with awesome design and strong business cases that would need minimal updates to succeed today.

Volkswagen Microbus/Bulli

 The 2001 Volkswagen Microbus Concept is still one of the best concepts to never see the light of day. It's the one that got away. Certainly the minivan market is not strong enough today for Volkswagen to make a case for the Microbus anymore and the Routan experiment doesn't help one bit.
The only hope for the Microbus is that there is finally a platform to produce it in a costly manner as it theoretically could be done off of the upcoming VW US crossover platform. More reasonable is the 2011 Bulli Concept, itself a fresher 7/10th take on the Microbus. With the runaway success of the Kia Soul there is a business case and VW has claimed that its super versatile MQB platform can produce fun vehicles at minimal expense. So far nothing has materialized of these claims, at least in the US. VW desperately needs a shot in the arm in the US in the way that the New Beetle did years ago and a retro mini/compact van is the best way at it.

Lamborghini Estoque

There is certainly nothing wrong with Lamborghini picking to (possibly) go ahead with a SUV/Crossover as its third model instead of a sedan based on current global trends. Porsche did so a decade ago when luxury SUVs and crossovers were less accepted. The Estoque though was a rare concept done so well to receive unanimous praise. The Urus on the other hand was not the same grand slam even among those that were accepting of it. The VW group should have a suitable platform for the Estoque be it the Porsche led MSB or the Audi led MLB-Evo if they ever decide to go with a sedan as a fourth model.

Ford Bronco

With the surging success of the Jeep brand and the Wrangler it's hard to see why no one has attempted to emulate the success. Sure it's hard to beat the intangibles and goodwill of the Jeep brand but it might certainly be worth it. The 2004 Ford Bronco concept still looks as the best possible challenger now that the Toyota FJ Cruiser is gone and Nissan is letting the Xterra age. Certainly the Bronco would clash with the rest of the Euro trending Ford lineup and it's unknown how suitable the international Ranger or F-150 platforms are for it. Still, it's not hard to imagine that the Bronco idea is brought up frequently in Ford product planning meetings after every banner Wrangler month.

Jeep Gladiator

As mentioned Jeep continues to crush it with the Wrangler month after month going against every current trend. It would make sense to spin off a pickup version. The midsize pickup market is certainly on its last legs with just 2.5 players left but if anyone can make a comeback it would be a Jeep. The Gladiator would go far beyond its pickup capabilities and usefulness for pest control companies and sell on the same qualities that drive the Wrangler. It's hard to see Jeep not strike gold with the way it's going right now.

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