This year's Los Angeles Auto Show brought a pleasant surprise: concept cars, several of them in fact. With increasing financial security and optimism, automakers are ready to give the public a peek into their future.
But what are the concepts of L.A. really telling car shoppers about their future choices?
Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept
Purpose: The Urban Luxury Concept applies Cadillac's “Art & Science” design philosophy to the very smallest class of cars. As the name suggests, it caters to city dwellers, and aims to give them all the luxury features they could hope for while still being able to fit into almost any parking space.
Prospects: The Urban Luxury Concept is not a production-intent vehicle. It couldn't use any existing Cadillac platform. They might be able to produce it on the Chevrolet Spark architecture but sharing a platform with such an inexpensive car is always a marketing risk for a luxury brand. It looks like Cadillac's Urban Luxury Concept could end up like their Sixteen and Converj concepts. Both were bold examples of how Cadillac could enter new niches, but they never committed to either of them. But...would it make sense in emerging markets like India and China?
GMC Granite Compact Pickup
Purpose: Although technically not part of the L.A. Auto Show, GM presented the Granite Compact Pickup to the motoring press at its L.A. design center the week of the show. The Granite pickup seeks to pack truck utility into a vehicle with a small footprint and excellent fuel efficiency.
Prospects: Although GM calls the Granite pickup a design study, it's based on the Granite utility vehicle concept which apparently will reach production in a few years. GM brought many of its past unconventional pickup concepts to production, including the Hummer SUT and Chevrolet SSR. So this one has a pretty good chance of making it.
Purpose: The Shinari luxury sedan concept introduces the world to Mazda's KODO design language and showcases the talents of veteran Mazda designer Ikuo Maeda.
Prospects: Mazda is coy about plans for the Shinari but the general consensus among automotive journalists is that the Shinari will not make production. It's even questionable whether much of its KODO design language will filter down to production models, considering Mazda gave up on its previous Nagare design language after only applying bits and pieces of it across its lineup.
Purpose: Nissan says the Ellure previews its design language for upcoming sedans, and does not presage any particular production vehicle. Like many concepts, the Ellure also presents new ideas for fuel efficient drivetrains.
Prospects: Although it's not a direct preview of any model, the Ellure bears an undeniable resemblance to the Sunny sedan that Nissan will soon unveil in China and also the Versa preview sketch that it released in October. Although the Ellure is closer to the Altima in size, it's safe to say that it's testing the waters for Nissan's upcoming small sedan.
Subaru Impreza Design Concept
Purpose: Subaru says this concept is meant to demonstrate it's new “Confidence in Motion” brand strategy and also present new infotainment and powertrain technology.
Prospects: Subaru openly says this concept hints at a future model and makes the hint even clearer by slapping an Impreza badge on it. However, this may not be the next Impreza hiding in plain sight. The few spy photos of the new Impreza that are out so far show much more conservative proportions.