2001 Volkswagen Microbus concept
Concept cars are a mixed breed. Sometimes, they're the real thing slightly disguised, and sometimes they're way-off abstractions in the Tomorrowland vein.
In a handful of cases, concept cars are annoying knock-offs of the boy who cried wolf, without the bit that makes the fairy tale appealing. You know, the part where the boy gets eaten.
Now, to be fair, there's more reality in most any concept car than in an episode of Operation Repo. We can't remember how many times Honda or Lexus has placed a production-ready car on an auto-show stand and called it a "concept"--think Model X, LF-A. And even among the purest flights of fancy, there are some ideas that spring to life from them.With auto show season in full swing, we're already hearing new talk about old trial balloons that have floated overhead, sometimes for most of the past decade, promising to take up real production-line space but never following up on those empty threats. These are the ones we'll have a hard time believing are real until someone can actually document a registration down at the local DMV.
The list of repeat offenders isn't too long, and some of them truly are lovely to contemplate. Still, we don't want to hear any more from these six concepts until they're ready to do something, or get off the pot. Or until they're eaten.
This week's prattling on about a new Microbus has only reminded us of the long, sad history of VW concept vans. Yes, we were there when the 2001 concept captivated Detroit (!). And then it went dormant. A decade's worth of teasing didn't help--and neither did the 2009 Routan, an anti-Bus if there ever were one. Back in 2008, we gave you plenty of reasons to doubt the return of Microbus, but now it's VW teasing once more. With a new mid-size sedan coming, it's not out of the question that a big crossover with a Microbus badge might emerge from Chattanooga--but that flat-faced front end is a killer to recreate. And if it can't be done, is the result really a Microbus?
2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept
A long time ago, in a land far, far away--Detroit--the Cadillac Sixteen swept auto journalists off their feet before giving them a peck on the cheek and never calling again. The lovely Sixteen bore the proportions of a classic sedan, and a V-16 engine underhood summarized an era of excess that the EPA used to sharpen its fuel-economy fangs. A glass roof and crystal details gave the whole thing a Hall of Mirrors feel that to date, has been mostly smoke and mirrors. In 2007, then GM product chief Bob Lutz pronounced the Sixteen dead--and then short-term GM CEO Ed Whitacre suggested a top-flight Cadillac might still be a portfolio need, a story that still makes the rounds today. Until GM's well clear of Federal funding, and until the Volt is a stable sales success, we're pushing this one on the back burner, crystal trim notwithstanding.