Remember when car companies would show you an outlandish car with outrageous styling, fantastic technologies, and almost zero production potential, and they called them “concepts?” The word “concept” used to be enough. It told you not to expect to see in a show room what you were seeing on the show floor, but that the manufacturer was teasing a future styling direction or a design solution for an emerging market segment.
Shown: Mazda LM55 Vision Gran Turismo Concept, in silver
But then some companies cheated (cough-BMW-cough). They wanted you to feel like their production car was remarkably faithful to the concept, so they showed you the production car with non-production-bound mirrors and door handles. Maybe they threw in the headlights that they couldn’t get certified in all countries, and they called it a “concept.”
Shown: Hyundai Vision G Concept Coupe, in silver
Coinciding with the devaluation of the “concept” currency, several companies started licensing the likenesses of design exercises to racing video games. This was new business—a concept car you could actually experience to some degree. Suppose it was your concept and you needed a new word, something to push it to the top of the GIS page... “Gran Turismo” won’t work because all your cars already appear in a game by the same name, and you already sell cars with “GT” in their names besides...how about “Vision?” Vision sounds like a concept, but slightly more tangible...or something...right? Sure.
Shown: VW Design Vision GTI Concept, in silver
So now everybody has a “Vision Gran Turismo Concept,” and they want to give the rest of their halo concepts the same exposure. Now the car has a whole tag cloud instead of a name, and you have to use all the tags to identify it; manufacturer name, “vision,” “concept,” and maybe “gran turismo.”*
Shown: Infiniti Vision Concept, in silver.
* “vision concept gran turismo” specifically identifies an imaginary race car that doesn’t have to be designed for or forged by racing...it is a fancy unicorn with magic chassis and engine technology, zero packaging concerns, and a body shell that cannot be manufactured and affords no access for maintenance or suspension travel.
Shown: Mercedes AMG Vision Gran Turismo Concept, in silver
So what does “vision” mean now? It means “concept,” except we let manufacturers excite us with cheap talk and sleight of hand, and now we have to call all the concepts “vision concepts,” and every jerk with an M4 thinks he’s driving a car that went straight from concept to production, and also they’re having ice cream for dinner.
Shown: Renault Alpine Vision Gran Tourismo Concept, in an actual goddamn color, almost
So, who is the worst offender here? By a wide margin, BMW, who has at least four cars with both the “vision” and “concept” monikers, not counting the Vision Concept from their subsidiary, Mini.
Shown: BMW Vision Future Luxury Concept, in silver
Shown: BMW Vision Connected Drive Concept, in silver
Shown: BMW Vision Gran Turismo Concept, in white
Shown: BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept, in white
To their credit, BMW showed enough Vision Concepts that they actually started trying out colors on them.
Shown: Mini Vision Concept, in copper
So, what is your favorite Vision Concept? If you don’t have a favorite, which one is most infamous? Who’s “Vision Concept” came first? Which one devalues the term the most? I mean, besides the basically production-ready Land Rover at the top.