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Why automakers spend millions on concept cars they’ll never make

concept cars, prototypes, BMW concept car

Ever heard of the Spyker D12 or Mazda Furai? How about the Sony Vision-S, the so-called PlayStation car? They are all concept cars who, despite their hype, will never see the production line. And they are not just sketches on a drawing board. Automakers have spent millions on research, development and prototyping, not to mention the expenditure on displaying these cars at auto shows. And sometimes automakers spend this money with no intention of marketing these models, which at first glance makes little sense.

What is a concept car?

concept cars, prototypes, BMW concept car

BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics concept car at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2010 | Feng Li/Getty Images

To understand why automakers waste seemingly millions on concept cars, it’s important to first understand what they are.