Who doesn’t love a good concept car? Elon Musk, boss of Tesla, that’s who. Or, rather, he likes a good concept car but doesn’t like what it too often doesn’t become: a good production car.
“Hate it when companies bring out an awesome show car then you can never actually buy it,” Musk said recently in fewer than 140 characters. “So lame.”
I take his point. The first question posed to any manufacturer when you see a terrific new car, daintily poised on a spinning turntable on a motor show stand, is an entirely reasonable: “Will you build it?”
The answer is often along the lines of what sounds, to the layman, far less reasonable: “Ah, well, you know… design study… gauge customer reaction…advanced technology… debut of our new design language…”
It’s the sort of answer that means nothing to most impartial onlookers. And I think that a lot of us in this game – perhaps me included – get a bit blind to that.
If I went to any consumer or trade show as an interested observer, walked over to a stand and thought, “Flipping heck, I’d like one of those”, only to be told that, “Actually sir, I’m afraid we don’t make those. How about this uninteresting product instead?”, I’d feel a bit let down.
However, I can see how the industry gets here. It gets here through decades of carefully managing product cycles that have given it big factories with huge capacities. Huge capacities that it can’t afford to risk making idle, given how small profit margins are and how twitchy shareholders will get. It breeds conservatism.