The 7 Worst Concept Cars of the Last Decade

Posted by: Dan on 1/02/2017

Category: General

We all had those moments when were kids: we got a piece of paper and crayons in hand, and drew a car with all sorts of weird and wacky features – and the end result was always something that you knew no one would be so crazy as to build in real life.

Well, some of those kids grew up and got jobs designing cars for a living. With 76.74 million cars sold in 2016, it's great that new designs are always on the way to keep the market fresh and dynamic.
But this is also where we see those bad designs presented to the market as ‘good’ cars. Here are seven examples of cars that were so bad, they should remain as mere road bumps in the history of autos.

1. Buick Cielo

Just like when your dog bolts out of the back gate, the Buick Cielo must’ve left many at the factory tempted to call out “Come back!” Meant to be a bridge in our cultural car history between the understated 90s cars and the brutish contributions of the 2000s, the team at Buick decided that just because “CARS” was still six years away from release didn’t mean people couldn’t drive a car that looked like it was from a cartoon.

While the design would have been somewhat forgivable if what sat beneath the bonnet was special, the Cielo was otherwise just a routine and run-of-the-mill vehicle. While it was advertised as the “No-compromise convertible,” with little else to recommend it, it’s no mystery why motorists looked elsewhere for their sports car fix.

2. Honda Fuya-Jo

The world’s largest manufacturer of cars – with global brands Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi all from the Land of the Rising Sun – Japanese cars underpin the auto industry of many countries around the world. Yet that doesn't give them a free pass on the Fuya-Jo, a concept car designed for youth with semi-standing seats, a DJ’s turntable, and an ambition to be a nightclub on wheels (safety and road rules be damned).

Then there were the aesthetics. Looking like a train driver got decoupled from his ride and decided to go wild with a purple tint and leopard print combo, the Fuya-Jo makes you grateful that for every artist in the world, there are five dull people in suits saying “That really won’t sell in our target market.”

3. Toyota Pod

As the biggest producer of cars in the world, it’s unavoidable that Toyota would have a dud now and then. The Toyota Pod was created to be a car (apparently). Nonetheless, anyone who loves a bit of Vegemite in the morning will know this design looks like it came from a dream to make a car that looked exactly like your humble toaster.

Sure, it had some whizz-bang features (strobe lights, early AI, and integration with Sony Entertainment apps), but since it looked like it could process a whole loaf of white bread in 10 seconds, you wouldn’t really be buying this car for a great Australian road trip, would you?

4. BMW 328 Hommage

You’d think the Toyota Pod would have guaranteed that car manufacturers would never again look to kitchen utensils for inspiration. But the BMW 328, released in 2011, proved the fascination was still there. Looking a whole lot like your knife set, bread boards, and cheese grater came together in a car (crucially leaving out an homage to Toyota’s toaster), the 328 was a rare misstep from BMW.

Intended to be an homage to the BMW 328 Touring Coupe that set the highest average speed at the Mille Miglia, the Hommage instead made people long for a past where this car didn’t exist.

5. Volkswagen Concept T

From iconic cars like the original Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows, to BMW’s Art Cars – and even just the annual rollout of consistently good sports vehicles – car lovers will always give Germans some advanced standing whenever they release a great new car. So what the heck happened with the Concept T?

While the Fuya-Jo and Pod illustrated that Japan certainly has a whacky approach to design, this fun and flippant attitude has also been a longstanding part of Japanese auto culture. The whimsical creation of the Concept T meant that, without the sophistication of prior German designs to accompany the silliness, many critics felt the Concept T was a half-hearted attempt. This was something car lovers could never applaud in a world of such legendary designs.

6. The Dodge Super 8

Chocolate ice cream is a testament that two good things combined together can often be a fabulous combination. The Dodge Super 8 is proof some things were never meant to be together.

On paper, the idea of bringing a car’s classical styling into a modernised form sounded OK.

The result was far less than acceptable, however. It looked dull, uniform, and uninspired – the exact opposite of what 50s cars with huge bonnets at tip and shark fins at end were meant to be. The fact that the Dodge also looked a whole lot like a 1958 Chevrolet Impala (a Dodge competitor) – and was also named after a classic Kodak camera – further diminished any ‘wow’ factor this new vehicle would have had.

7. DeLorean DMC-12

This car is beloved by anyone who adores the 1980s (and especially the “Back to the Future” trilogy), so featuring it on this list may seem controversial. Nonetheless, anyone who knows the real history of the DeLorean will recognise it should be here – not because it was terrible in every single way, but because beneath an iconic design lay a world of trouble.

While it looked beautiful from afar, it was unpowered to drive, made of poor materials, and surrounded by a ton of management and organisational scandals that brought the DeLorean brand down before it ever got off the ground. While many cried tears for a long time over this, news that the DeLorean will be revived in 2017 means there will be another chance to finally get it right.

These cars are not shining examples of human innovation, and they never will be. Nonetheless, even with the shortcomings of these designs, they were ideas and inspiration for the future.

Even if that often meant a vehicle like the Cielo or the DMC-12 served as an example of what not to do, they sowed the seeds for a future where electric cars can be built by creatives who have made a new type of auto energy mainstream. So, while the execution was poor, even at their worst, there remains in these cars new ideas for how we might yet turn bad designs into good ones in the future.


What other concept cars do you remember that were terrible? Let us know in the comments below:


Image: Pixabay