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Companies have to generate revenues and profit, Car companies are no exception. They do this by selling cars (or at least charging fees on “free” loans and other such stuff). Publicity is a cornerstone of there strategy, and car shows are a great way to generate some publicity. Hence, car companies need to attract interest at car shows. The concept car has become a mainstay in their publicity plans, they have to have one, every show, every time. Unfortunately, that’s a tall order. I mean, how many concepts can you come up with?

Surprisingly, how many turns out to be quite a lot, and the flow of ideas doesn’t seem to be slowing down after 50+ years. But even the largest of companies can sometimes get its schedules mixed up, people forget, plans go astray. And it doesn’t matter how big the company, take a look at the Toyota XYR, for example.

Snappy acronym is about all you can say about to this one. Where’s the concept? A full 68% of all ten year old Celica’s have a wing like this. When Toyota turned out this concept, the Celica was in production. All they did was bolt on an ugly wing at the back. I suppose they thought there was something revolutionary about clamping the wing with far-too-close-together uprights. At any sort of speed the wing probably wobbled like a duck. Toyota probably weren’t that impressed either. To deflect criticism, one of their blurbs proclaimed the instruments were “legible.” Wow, legible instruments, there’s a step forward for car-kind.

The Swedes are well known for being cool, calm and collected. But you can’t help wondering if they were trying to be cool, calm, and collected when they turned out the Volvo Performance Concept, or whether they just forgot the date of the show and had to pull the CFOs car from the car park, stick side-skirts on, and give it a good polishing.

After all, when was the last time you remember “performance” leaping to mind with the words “station wagon” (or “estate” if you’re in other parts of the world). This was an existing car with a couple of stick on bits. In Volvo’s favor, only 0.67% of all their cars have ever suffered this sort of treatment, so you could say “you never see a Volvo like that.” On the other hand, as you look at that picture you come to realize why that’s the case.

Mercury fell into this trap, too. Obviously the mother of all scheduling faux pas led them to turn up at the Detroit show with a car that had been in full production for years.

Yes, they stuck on a couple of blacked-out headlight covers and a new set of aftermarket wheel, but otherwise? You can drive down any street in America and see a Mercury Cougar like this. My only assumption was that they were trying to set a precedence for all the tuner-boys out there in the hope of retaining some kind of brand identity. There again, maybe that’s a bit too much of a concept!


(Images courtesy of Wikipedia, Toyota, Volvo and Ford)

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