As Detroit show nears, 5 memorable concept cars

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As Detroit show nears, 5 memorable concept cars

DETROIT - Prototype cars - also called “concepts’’ - appear at every auto show. They’re a way for companies to test ideas, gauge reaction and hint at future designs.

Audi, Nissan, Kia, Volkswagen and others will have concept cars at this year’s Detroit auto show, which opens to the public on Saturday. Some will be nearly identical to cars that wind up in dealerships; others will be more outlandish.

Here are some five prototype cars that debuted in Detroit over the past decade, and what happened afterward:

CHEVROLET VOLT (2007) - GM’s revolutionary electric car with a backup gas engine debuted as a sexy concept in 2007. So fans were disappointed with the dull looks of the production version revealed a year later. The car required significant design changes to improve its efficiency. But at least the idea made it to market. The Volt went on sale in 2010.

FISKER KARMA (2008) - The hybrid sports car, with its long hood and flowing lines, wowed crowds as a concept car in 2008. The $95,000 Karma went on sale three years later. But it was plagued with safety recalls, and Fisker eventually halted production and filed for bankruptcy protection. That wasn’t the Karma’s final chapter, however. At last year’s auto show, a company called VL Automotive showed the Destino - a Karma body with a Corvette engine under the hood. This year, VL Automotive is expected to show off a convertible Destino.

CADILLAC CONVERJ (2009) - A rakish Cadillac with the Chevy Volt’s plug-in hybrid powertrain wowed crowds in 2009, a recession year when there was little to cheer about in the auto industry. The Converj, renamed the ELR, re-emerged in production form at the 2013 show, and is set to go on sale early this year.

FORD VERTREK (2011) - There’s no Vertrek on the lot at your local Ford dealer. But there is a Ford Escape, the small crossover SUV that the sleek Vertrek foreshadowed in its 2011 Detroit debut.

The new Escape was a radical departure from the boxy old version, and customers welcomed it.

The Escape was the ninth best-selling vehicle in the United States last year.

HYUNDAI HCD-14 (2013) - The elegant HCD-14 previewed the new Genesis, which Hyundai will reveal at this year’s show. Some details from the concept, like the rear-hinged rear doors and the giant grille, didn’t survive.

But the Genesis teems with new technology, including automatic parking and compatibility with the Google Glass wearable computer. AP

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