In moves that have already been challenged by the Federal Trade Commission and American Civil Liberties Union, more than seven US states have declared that concept vehicles – those in the earliest stages of design – must be seen through to production unless they are canceled very early in the process.
Alabama, a very automotive-heavy state with factories operated by Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Hyundai, took the bill step further to declare that all concepts must be greenlit immediately after the initial sketch is drawn.
Alabama governor Kay Ivey, in support of her recent decision to sign the bill, stated that “Carmakers here in Alabama were already overwhelmingly on board with this proposal. For example, the Mercedes GLS Coupe produced in Tuscaloosa was nothing but a drunken napkin sketch in a bar late one night. But as you see today, this vehicle has been produced for years, despite its mentally challenged design. We’re thankful that Mercedes made this difficult, yet important, decision.”
Georgia, which was also recently in the news for its so-called “Concept Clay Model Law,” declared that initial concepts may be scrapped, but once a clay model has been designed, the automaker must see it through to production. Critics, however, cite that carmakers often cannot make a rational decision over a car’s future until at least the clay model stage, or sometimes well into the ¾-scale nonworking mockup phase.
Dr. Mitt Everson, a production engineer for Kia Automobiles in West Point, Georgia, explains that he cannot make a reasonable decision so quickly in the process. “The design and manufacturing process takes a long time,” he asserts, “And sometimes we can’t know if the design is good or bad until we’re halfway there.” Dr. Everson then explained that Kia is considering moving its operations to New York State, which allows project cancellations even up until the official launch date.
“New York’s business-friendly policies are very attractive to us, and I’m sure they will be for other automakers, as well,” he concluded.
Similar pro-concept bills in Missouri, Louisiana, and others also threaten those states’ automotive business and are sure to be challenged in court by both the FTC and ACLU. Both organizations contend that car companies should not be forced to move their operations to more rural, dangerous, and unregulated states simply for the right to cancel their own projects. Further, they claim, most automakers are not well capitalized enough to make such moves, even if they wanted to.
ACLU Automotive Policy Director Kim Jorgensen officially responded to Alabama’s (and similar) bills by stating, “We believe the decision on concept cars should be between the Design Chief and his or her Chief Engineer. When this decision process is usurped by the state, our society can harmed by such rolling abortions as the Pontiac Aztek. No rational person wants to go back to that era.”