NEW YORK — Auto shows aren’t just about what’s going to be for sale, they are intended to fire imaginations and show the future of transportation.




Wild concepts dominate the NY Auto Show. The 5 hottest concept cars at the show.

That’s where concept vehicles come in. Automakers unleash their creative energy on these prototypes either to build excitement for coming production model or to test the public’s interest in certain designs or features. This year, some of the most interesting concepts were all crossovers or SUVs, the hottest-selling vehicles in the auto industry.


Here’s a look at four of them.

Infiniti QX80 Monograph

Infiniti’s QX80 is imposing as a full-size SUV, but the concept version called the Monograph that it introduced at the New York Auto Show is like a bright, shiny jewel.

The QX80 Monograph was intended as a design study that could point to the direction of Infiniti’s next luxury barge. The brand says it “is the ultimate expression of futuristic luxury SUV design.” It was dreamed up in Japan.

“We sculpted our body pure, straight and horizontal, the muscularity both brute and sensual,” says Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s senior vice president for Global Design.

The first thing you notice is its shiny bare-metal style exterior. And its size. After years of high gas prices in which automakers tried to use styling tricks to make large vehicles appear smaller — think rounded corners — the Monograph is meant to be imposing. It’s more than 16 feet long — not huge by historical standards — but made to look bigger, Infiniti says.

Infiniti didn’t give any hints as to when the production-ready QX80 will come to showrooms, but this one is meant to build enthusiasm.

Subaru Ascent crossover concept

Subaru is trying to get ahead of generational change with a new SUV that it hopes will capture the family market.

Subaru introduced the Ascent crossover concept, a three-row SUV that has surprisingly conventional looks for that class of vehicle. It’s upright, not the sleeker, more wagon-like configuration of much of the rest of Subaru’s lineup.

It’s a concept, but Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, introducing the car here at the New York Auto Show, says it is surefire for production. “Yes, it will be made,” he said.

He says Subaru committed a mistake in past generations by not offering a large SUV. The brand grew by being a favorite of younger, single people or small families, but didn’t have anything to offer them when they added more kids and were ready for a three-row crossover SUV. Now, as Millennials gradually need seven seats in their SUV, Subaru will be ready to hold on to them with Ascent.

While the SUV’s looks break from past Subarus, its innards are true to the brand. The car has the same “boxer” engine, in which the cylinders are in a different arrangement than in a conventional motor, as other Subarus.

The new Subaru will be built at the company’s plant in Layfayette, Ind,

Genesis GV80 concept

Hyundai’s luxury division, Genesis, delivered one of the most elegant concept vehicles at the auto show.

It’s a large SUV concept called the GV80 that was designed to show that fledgling Genesis is serious about design.

GV80 is the forerunner of a two SUVs on the way to showrooms, with the first taking about two years to arrive, says Manfred Fitzgerald, head of the Genesis brand. For the moment, the brand has two well-regarded sedans, the G80 and G90, but it remains in the automotive shadows.

Fitzgerald said what’s important isn’t sales. It’s putting the Genesis name on the car world’s map.

“It’s not about volume. It’s about establishing a brand,” he told reporters after the GV80 concept was unveiled here at the New York Auto Show.

The GV80 comes billed as a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, but Fitzgerald said that’s not what is important. What matters is the way it looks.

As for the GV80 itself, it has some impressive design elements. Many of the surfaces, including the seat fronts, have a crisscross pattern. Where it is most noticeable is in the roof pillar just head of the second row of seats. They’re perforated, with the rows of little holes in a diamond shape.

Toyota FT-4X concept

In a relatively brazen play for Millennial love, Japanese automaker Toyota revealed a spunky new crossover concept Wednesday at the New York Auto Show.

Toyota unveiled the FT-4X concept, aimed at burnishing the company’s image among young urban dwellers with an occasional taste for adventure.

The company’s designers in Newport Beach, Calif., envisioned the chirpy four-wheel-drive FT-4X concept as fit for “outings by anyone, anytime” at the spur of the moment, Toyota said.

But it’s especially aimed at Millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, or what Toyota described as young professionals who “are fond of the outdoors but operate almost always indoors.” This group would typically “enjoy venturing into new neighborhoods and national parks, but hardly plan ahead.”

“As customer preferences continue to shift toward smaller, more fuel-efficient SUVs, we began a deeper study of what the next generation of adventurers really wanted in a vehicle,” Toyota California design boss Kevin Hunter said at the New York Auto Show.

That included conversations between designers and “outdoorsy Millennials in the Bay Area,” he said.