What do the concept cars of the LA Auto Show tell us about the future?

Of the concepts captured by Brian, I think my favorite has to be the Vision Mercedes Simplex. It’s inspired by the Mercedes 35PS—the original Mercedes—built by Emil Jellinek in 1901. It “symbolizes the transformation of the brand-specific luxury of Mercedes-Benz” according to chief design officer Gorden Wagener. I don’t entirely believe that, but I love the elegance of the design and the pared-back detailing of this little open-wheel roadster.

Even the more out-there concepts have value. The supplier Magna used the show to announce the final of its first Magna Global Bold Perspective Award, which featured finalists from the US, China, and Europe, each looking 20-30 years into the future.

“The students’ stuff happens at a 2D and model level and then it moves its way up. You can even see it in some of the form languages. Some of these ideas would be just amazingly out there, and then two years later somebody has a show car at Geneva,” explained Larry Erickson, Global Director of Design, Magna Exteriors. “Everybody’s trying for something new, you know. There’s always this pressure of what’s next,” he told Ars.

Zehao “West” Zhang, a student at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, won the design with a vehicle for urban nomads.

Magna’s interest in design as a Tier 1 supplier is a way of spotting trends as early as possible, in order to be able to offer the appropriate products to OEMs. Erickson pointed to active aerodynamics—air dams that lower at speed, or moving surfaces in a car’s underbody that channel or skirt the airflow to cut drag—as ideas that are appearing in production cars now which were once the preserve of the concept.

Jonathan M. Gitlin Jonathan is the automotive editor at Ars Technica, covering all things car-related. Jonathan lives and works in Washington, D.C.
Email[email protected]//Twitter@drgitlin

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