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Ian Callum’s forgotten concepts

6 months ago

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Ian Callum | Designer


17 January 2024

I’m often asked why we create concept cars. It is a question with many answers. The Italian carrozzeria of the 1960s and ’70s would use them to show off their design prowess so that they might attract new or returning customers (aka car manufacturers) for their styling and design services; as a result, they created some of the finest automotive art there has been. The Americans in general and General Motors in particular would create futuristic ideas to entice customers to their brands, selling them the dream.

Latterly, many show cars have been used to preview a production model already coming down the tracks, just mildly disguised with subtle differences and, of course, the obligatory bigger wheels. But for me there was a big lesson to be learned, stemming from the launch of the Jaguar C-XF concept of 2007, namely that over promising a future production car only leads to disappointment when it finally appears.

This is exactly what happened when we launched the XF, a car that really should have been seen as a bold move; but following in the footsteps of the C-XF concept, it had quite the reverse effect: it seemed like we had lost our bottle. What was particularly galling was that, in reality, the XF was not a watered-down C-XF at all, because its design had been completed, signed off, done and dusted long before any concept was created. After this, and much to the frustration of my design team, I instructed that show cars needed to be far more representative of the future models people would be actually able to go out and buy.

It was a boyhood dream of mine to work on concept cars and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been involved in so many. And while, yes, many have fallen into that category of concept that is designed to prepare the world for something coming later, fortunately some were created purely for the sake of showing off the designers’ ability. And, of course, part of their purpose was to gain the attention of the public, but to us their value was greater for their ability to capture the attention of our bosses, and to show what we could really achieve creatively when not driven purely by metrics.

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