The definition of a concept car, in the terms of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a car built to test or show a new design.” Each car show hosts at least one concept car from at least one automotive producer that offers the public incredible technological innovations or awesome designs that may or may not be produced in the future. According to GM Heritage Center, the first concept car ever created was, in fact, a General Motors concept car: the legendary Buick Y Job made by Harley Earl, the chief designer of the company. He developed it with the main idea to see the reaction of the public to a new design and new technology instead of commercial production. This was happening in 1938, and since then, each and every producer fights to have the best and the most innovative concepts to make the production line.
Each concept car is unique and one of a kind. And each one is destined to deliver important new technological discoveries or design ideas that should have a great impact on the automotive industry. The concept cars are also called “dream cars” or “show cars” because they represent something that hadn't been created before, a new model for the future, according to History Access. However, not all concept cars manage to enter the production line because they still need to be tested or modified. This list offers a quick look at the awful and also great concept cars made by General Motors.
20 BAD: Saturn Flextreme Concept
The Saturn Flextreme Concept was displayed in the 2008 edition of the Detroit Auto Show, actually being a two-in-one concept vehicle, according to How Stuff Works. The same vehicle was also displayed in 2007 at the Frankfort Auto Show—but with Opel badges. This means the first big minus for Saturn. The compact crossover concept vehicle is based on the same E-Flex technology already seen on the Chevrolet Volt concept from the 2007 Chicago Auto Show. So, it was nothing new, as a matter of fact. The E-Flex system is represented by a lithium-ion battery along with an auxiliary power source (a diesel or a gasoline internal-combustion engine or even a hydrogen fuel cell) and it can provide a maximum range of 40 miles with a full charge. Saturn chose a 1.3-liter turbocharged diesel engine to represent the auxiliary power source of the Flextreme Concept, with a range of 444 miles if the tank is full. The vehicle wasn't ready to reach the market back then, and it was never produced. It was, in fact, a perfect copy of the Opel model, and one would wonder why an automotive company would want to do such a thing. It deserves its place on this list.
19 BAD: Buick Cielo Concept
This 1999 concept vehicle wasn't received with any round of applause. The Buick Cielo concept was a convertible with a lot of strange body lines and an awful drowsy and massive grille that was meant to copy the one from the first concept vehicle, the Buick Y Job. Despite all the efforts, it seems that this grille was better off left on that 1938 model, according to GM Authority.
The name "Cielo" (that means “sky” in Spanish) was definitely chosen to represent the panoramic view offered by the huge opaque roof panels.
The Buick Cielo Concept was actually thought to be a convertible, so those panels would've had to slide into the trunk, according to Super Cars. Was there any space left? The convertible top, the climate and entertainment control systems, and the doors were operated by voice commands, but was this really a good thing? What would've happened if the owner had a cold and couldn't speak? The engine, a supercharged 3800 Series II V6, delivered 240 horsepower and was connected to a four-speed automatic gearbox controlled through push-button control. This concept wasn't the best idea that Buick had when they decided to create a convertible that would've eventually made the production line.
18 BAD: Cadillac Cimarron
The 1982 Cadillac Cimarron was created and displayed in 1981. Cadillac believed that it would be nice to offer a sedan with a lot of optional features at that time as standard, according to Concept Carz. The hood was initially hiding a 1.8-liter engine with four cylinders and a carburetor that delivered 85 horsepower. This car was one of the most unsuccessful models that Cadillac had ever made. The horrible concept appeared in 1985 after the Cimarron was actually produced based on the General Motors J platform, with 132,559 models made within eight years. However, starting in 1985, the marketed model, as well as the concept car, were offered with a 2.8-liter V8 engine that delivered 125 horsepower. Actually, the Cadillac Cimarron Concept was made in memory of the 1931 Cadillac V16 Fleetwood with practically two windshields, the second one representing a kind of separation glass between the front and the back seats, according to Curbside Classic. Both the concept and the production models were a complete disaster, and even if the concept is still displayed at the General Motors Heritage Center, it wasn't one that Cadillac would actually be too proud of. These being said, the Cimarron has its place on this list.
17 BAD: 2002 Chevrolet Bel Air Concept
Chevrolet has tried to remodel the iconic Bel Air model that was so well known back in the days, but the result wasn't what they expected. In 2002, the automotive producer displayed the Bel Air concept car that made people think about the 1950s, but the only thing that remained from that gorgeous car was the name. The producer mounted, under the hood, a Vortec 3500 turbocharged engine with five cylinders designed especially for this concept.
The unit delivered 315 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque along with a Hydra-Matic 4L60-E automatic transmission with four speeds and was electronically controlled, according to Super Cars.
The interior seemed to be inspired by the first Bel Air model, starting with the seats and finishing with the dashboard, but this wasn’t enough to be able to make a true comparison between them. To be able to build a large convertible, Chevrolet used a modern body-on-frame construction with exactly the same hydroforming technology already used on the Corvette frame rails and other General Motors sport utility cars. That type of frame offers stiffness and rigidity. However, despite the efforts made to deliver a car that makes one wonder if time travel exists, this concept didn't even get near the original Bel Air model.
16 BAD: GM Runabout Concept
The intriguing GM Runabout Concept wanted to be the perfect car for women, in general, or mothers, in particular, as the official picture portrays. Having in mind that the Americans didn't pay too much attention to three-wheeled cars, it doesn't seem odd that this curio has already been forgotten, according to Auto Classics. This concept car was built in 1964 to be showcased in the World’s Fair exhibition along with two other General Motors models, the Firebird IV and the GM-X. The main idea of this concept was to display design innovations of that time. One of the most interesting features was the unconventional design of the doors. The windscreen was, in fact, a part of the roof that would lift up and forward so the passenger could enter the cabin. Another innovation that this car would've promised to offer was the shopping trolley incorporated into the lower-rear section of the vehicle. If it didn't have three wheels instead of the classic four, this concept car would've definitely become a production-line model. It was a car designed for women, after all, and this would've been one of the good reasons to produce it on a large scale.
15 BAD: GM Impact Concept
The General Motors Impact Concept Car was displayed at the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was one of the first electric-car projects to be developed based on an authentic electric car and not on a modified classic vehicle with a petrol engine. The main reason why it was created was the California Clean Air Act, which mentioned that 10% from the final number of new cars that were sold in the state had to be without any exhaust emission until 2003, according to Old Concept Cars. However, even if it was innovative at that time, it wasn't considered a breakthrough in battery technology at the moment. The body of the vehicle was created from composite materials to compensate the weight of the batteries, while the fiberglass exterior parts were able to record a 0.19 drag coefficient, the lowest one recorded in the General Motors wind tunnel.
The electric system was represented by a unit that created AC current from DC power, and this led to the use of three-phase electric motors that were more efficient.
Despite the idea that it was an interesting car back then, all electric and all, taking a look at it would've made that person change his or her mind.
14 BAD: Pontiac Rageous Concept
In 1997, at the North American International Auto Show, Pontiac made its entrance with one of the strangest concepts one has ever seen. The funny thing is that even if the Pontiac Rageous Concept wasn't the most stunning concept car in history, it's still remembered because something similar to it didn't exist back then, and it definitely cannot be compared to anything from today. The vehicle was, in fact, a hatchback with a drop-down tailgate and a rear wing glued on it, suicide doors, and a 5.7-liter V8 engine that delivered 315 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque, mixed with a five-speed manual gearbox. The concept car was sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.5 seconds, quite a remarkable time for that period. The car was thought to be a sports car, and that's one reason why the front passenger seat was foldable. The trunk had a lot of space for luggage, and the interior was made in the Fast and Furious style, being a little too exaggerated for anyone’s taste, according to Motor 1. Obviously, this concept car wasn't even close to the assembly line or it would've been on the streets by now.
13 BAD: Buick Signia Concept
Buick revealed the Signia Concept in 1998 at the North American International Auto Show. They wanted to develop a multiple-activity vehicle and offered this car as an example.
According to The Truth About Cars, the description of the Signia Concept sounded like this: a sedan and, at the same time, an SUV especially designed for those families that love to travel.
It had high roof and seats to make the entry easier, a removable hatchback in case there were large items to be transported, inset rocker panels for mud, infrared sensors that could detect the objects in the blind spot, and flexible cargo space with an expandable floor. Looking at the image of the concept car, no one would buy such a horrible vehicle. The interior was made almost entirely out of wood, the switchgear was too art deco for that period, the tailgate was composed of a huge glass canopy and two really odd swing-out doors, the front of the car looked like a beak, and the overall design was outrageous. Why did General Motors exert so much effort to create this thing that didn't have any future? It was left to rot in a parking lot, and fortunately, it didn't make it into production.
12 BAD: 2000 GM Precept Concept
During the Clinton administration, there was a promise made to the automotive producers: they would receive help to develop and produce fuel-efficient large vehicles, according to Driven To Write. The idea was to achieve a fuel use of 80 mpg. General Motors was keen to start working on this project, and the result was the 2000 GM Percept Concept. The vehicle was equipped with a 1.3-liter direct-injection turbo engine with three cylinders, placed in the rear and not in the front of the car. All the meshes and vents were mounted in the back, leaving the front to be sealed and, in this way, achieving the incredibly low drag coefficient of only 0.16. This strange concept car was, in fact, a hybrid with two electric motors: a 13-horsepower electric starter motor that helped the gearbox and the crankshaft to be balanced and eliminate the idea of synchros and a 34-horsepower electric unit taken from the EV1 for the front wheels. In addition, the vehicle had 16 radiators, four coolant circuits, and a computing power battery for those mentioned above. The concept was created back then to show the world that an 80 mpg fuel use would only be possible with an ugly, complex, and unusable car.
11 BAD: GMC Granite Concept
According to CBS News, the 2010 GMC Granite Concept was displayed at the Detroit Auto Show from the same year. Looking at it, one may think that it doesn't belong in the GMC pickup and SUV range. This concept car looks like a square trying to fit in a round hole because it doesn't fit into the picture in any way.
Despite the idea that the GMC brand is known for its big pickups and SUVs, in 2010, they were kind of out of fashion, and this was one reason why they tried to come up with a crossover instead of the ordinary stuff.
The producer thought that it would be great to have a new type of car in the family that can be used by families. Nice, right? The Granite crossover is something between a station wagon and a minivan, but will this strange-looking vehicle be able to attract enough customers if the GMC brand is well known for its utility vehicles in large industry sectors? General Motors usually sells the same model with different badges, and this idea destroyed the Pontiac brand. Will this change eventually and help GMC start a new profitable chapter?
10 GOOD: Chevrolet Bolt Concept
2015 came with a new North American International Auto Show in Detroit and an interesting Chevrolet concept car called the "Bolt." This vehicle seemed to be ready for production from the first glimpse, mainly because Chevrolet already stated that it should enter into production within some time, according to Auto Trader. The Bolt has an interesting design. Being a five-door hatchback, it received a huge windshield, a small grille, narrow headlights, and a rear window that wraps around the left and the right sides of the car. The interior was made with a more futuristic approach with no gauge cluster and no center control stack, but instead, it received a few high-tech screens, and the color white prevails in everything. The most interesting thing about this car is the promised range that sums 200 miles of electric power. It would be more than the well-known Nissan Leaf EV can manage and very close to Tesla’s Model S sedan. For an electric vehicle, the range is very important, besides the size of the car, so this Chevrolet will definitely be bought by those who are searching for the perfect car for the city. It's also pretty, isn’t it?
9 GOOD: Chevrolet Mi-Ray Concept
The Chevrolet Mi-ray Concept car is an aerodynamic and aggressive vehicle designed based on the 1963 Monza SS and the 1962 Corvair Super Spyder models from the past. The General Motors Advance Design Studio in Seoul is to “blame” for this futuristic masterpiece. Mi-ray actually means “future” in Korean, and the concept with the same name was displayed at the 2011 Seoul Motor Show. The innovations that this vehicle brings are quite interesting. The body of the car is made from a composite material that's based on carbon fiber, and the stylish lines from the sides have ambient lighting underneath, while the front 20-inch wheels perfectly match the 21-inch wheels from the rear. The power comes from two electric motors mounted on the front of the car that deliver 15 kW with the help of one single 1.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. In addition, a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with four cylinders completes the scenery. Everything is high-tech on this vehicle, as the latest General Motors technology was fitted into this concept. The interior is also interesting with its jet-fighter theme, all in leather, brushed aluminum, and of course, fabric. Back projection is used to display the information required from the three zones of interest: performance, mileage, and navigation.
8 GOOD: Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept
The 2012 Detroit Auto Show was the perfect place for Chevrolet to display its newly shaped Tru 140S Concept car, according to GM-Volt. This vehicle is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine with start-stop technology, created based on the Cruze / Volt platform. The Volt fans have expressed their desire to see more plug-in models released, but what this particular model does is clearly addressed to those types of people who want cheap and fun cars. The Tru 140S Concept is also called an “affordable exotic” model despite the contradiction of the two terms. The exterior design includes a matte-white color and a set of performance chrome wheels. It also features regenerative braking, a technology that no car should exclude nowadays. Chevrolet thought that a performance coupe with sedan functionality and room for four passengers would be a perfect match for the 2012 market.
The engine offers 150 horsepower with 148 lb-ft of torque and 40 mpg on the highway.
The car was designed as the perfect choice for people up to 30 years old who are looking for an interesting toy. This is the car of the future, awesome for daily driving in the city to and back from work but also for a weekend at the seaside.
7 GOOD: Chevrolet Code 130R Concept
The Chevrolet Code 130R Concept car was revealed also at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. This car is powered also by a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, just like its colleague, the 140S Concept, but it was created based on another platform, the rear-wheel-drive Cadillac ATS one, according to GM-Volt. This particular model is offered with a metallic red paint and a set of gold wheels. The exterior design is based on heritage performance styling with Chevrolet fender flares, an aggressive front fascia, a Chevy cross-flag emblem, and a straight body side. The interior of the car features a lot of high-tech stuff including Wi-Fi, innovative storage, phone integration, and a heads-up display. The engine delivers 150 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, being able to achieve 40 mpg on the highway. The car addresses people under the age of 30 because it was made as a perfect tech toy. With so many technological features and the interesting design, the car would definitely look stunning in the parking lot. Imagine a world without angry or bad drivers and where everyone gets from point A to point B very fast. Would it not be great? This little car can offer its owner the possibility to drive fast and dream of the world from above.
6 GOOD: GM Le Sabre Concept
This 1951 concept car was one massive step forward for that period. Harley Earl was the man who designed this outrageous and sensational General Motors Le Sabre Concept car. It was created on a Buick chassis mixed with an aluminum body of a two-door convertible model. The general design had elements from normal cars along with jet-fighter ones. In the front of the car, a jet-engine-inspired air intake was mounted and also masked by one horizontal grille that sustained the headlamps on its back. To use the lights, one had to rotate that barred grille. Everything on this car was made based on the aeronautical theme. The rear of the vehicle also had a stylized outlet duct that looked like those present on a jet. Both tail fins masked a 90-liter rubberized fuel tank, one with petrol and one with methanol. This mixture powered the experimental engine mounted on the car, the 215 cid supercharged aluminum V8 unit with high compression. For that period, the wraparound windscreen represented an innovation, and it was used a lot afterward. The interior had a lot of aircraft elements, like a compass, a tachometer, and an altimeter. The seats were adjusted electronically, while the doors and the roof had electrical catches to secure them.
5 GOOD: Buick Avenir Concept
The Avenir Concept was Buick’s idea for a new flagship sedan in 2015. It was officially revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in the same year. "Avenir" means “future” in French, and it perfectly represents this new model, inspired by historic Buick versions. After a global design team of Buick sculptors and designers worked hard, the result was amazing: a sporty, progressive, and luxurious vehicle. The exterior design features a sweep-spear body side (the signature from Buick), a long hood, a sloping rear deck, and a stance to bring the wheels at the corners. The car also received a new stylish grille with a large opening that keeps the Buick badge, full LED headlamps, a set of 21-inch wheels, and a perfectly matched color. The Avenir is powered by a new direct-injected V6 with stop/start technology and Active Fuel Management mixed with a nine-speed automatic gearbox and an all-wheel-drive system with two clutches. The interior was fitted with a 12-inch color touchscreen and a lot of other high-tech features. In a few words, this Avenir Concept offers a clear view of what a perfect Buick flagship should be, and it definitely will shake the market if it hits the production line.
4 GOOD: Buick Riviera Concept
2013 was an interesting year, mostly because of the astonishing Buick Riviera Concept car displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show. General Motors will never seize to amaze the automotive industry with interesting concepts that should definitely hit the market as soon as they receive the proper feedback.
This vehicle was powered by an innovative and brand-new plug-in hybrid powertrain with wireless battery charging. How does this sound? Amazing, actually!
According to Green Car Reports, the press release from General Motors stated that the car has received the dual-mode W-PHEV (wireless plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) propulsion system. This vehicle mixed together eco-driving and the astonishing performance of a sports car. Despite the wireless charging, the car can also receive the classic type of cable charging. People got used to those boring less-ranged concept vehicles that go for a few miles and then need to be recharged for a lot of time before being able to be used again. Only a few countries have a perfect electric cars infrastructure with enough sockets on the highways and so on. Technology evolves very fast, though, and nowadays, electric vehicles can already be considered an important part of the automotive industry.
3 GOOD: Cadillac Escala Concept
The Cadillac Escala Concept was created at the General Motors design studio in Detroit, according to Cool Hunting. Before this project, the producer conceived a plan that included three different concepts to represent three different driving experiences, each one with a special purpose and representing key aspects of the Cadillac brand: journey, drive, and arrival. The evolution of the brand was supposed to be caught and explained in the process. The Escala Concept made its debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2016, a very important event in America that celebrates automotive history, representing the arrival, the last step. The purpose of this concept was to show that Cadillac can bring its contribution to a higher luxury segment than ever before. Its exterior and interior design, styling, and technology were a preview of the cars that were in development at that time. Because of the use of OLED lighting, the designers were able to fit lighting in places where the normal lights didn't have enough room. The interior has received OLED curved displays, a major evolution in that department. Every detail was meticulously managed, and the result was a spectacular concept that caught all the attention at the show.
2 GOOD: Buick Avista Concept
The 2016 Detroit Auto Show featured the unveiling of the new amazing concept from Buick: the Avista Concept car that wanted to show a future grand touring coupe. The exterior design includes a curvaceous and bold theme with its contoured bonnet, the big open front grille, and the front guard vents that offer a sporty look, 20-inch alloy wheels, and beefy rear haunches.
The platform on which the car was built was also used on the Chevrolet Camaro and involves rear-wheel drive and a front engine.
The interior was designed as a very elegant, comfortable, and luxurious space with a lot of high-end technology. The dash contains a fully digital instrument cluster that makes its way through the central infotainment system. The seats were made from Mist Gray and Superior Blue leather, while the rest of the interior received aluminum and carbon-fiber trimmings. This car meets the perfect requirements for design and performance with its amazing looks and astonishing comfort. The past few years have brought a lot of interesting concepts, and some of them also arrived on the market as production vehicles. As technology is evolving fast, the automotive industry is keeping pace with it in a perfectly balanced way.
1 GOOD: Chevrolet FNR Concept
One of the greatest concepts from General Motors was the Chevrolet FNR Concept, a real science-fiction vehicle that one may think came straight from the future. This autonomous electric vehicle was designed by the company’s PATAC (Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center) in Shanghai. The latest technology, along with amazing styling that seems to be a perfect fit in The Matrix movie, was used to make this car, according to Extreme Tech. The body of the car is made from a lot of glass with dual swing “dragonfly” doors, crystal taillights and headlights, and last but not least, magnetic hubless wheel electric motors. The interior is composed of an entirely virtual dashboard, an almost-horizontal windshield, an iris scanner that starts the car, and a lot of sensors like the roof-mounted radar that works as a navigation system. There's also an artificially intelligent personal assistant that offers a lot of information and guidance. The front seats can swivel 180 degrees so that the passengers in the back won’t have to talk to the back of the driver. This can be possible because the car drives itself, but it can also be driven by the owner if this is what he or she wants. This concept was made based on the wishes of a lot of car owners on this planet, and the result was perfect.
Sources: history.gmheritagecenter.com; motor1.com