When a modern car goes into production, it's easy to underestimate just how much time and effort has gone into designing it. From an initial concept or design idea, it can take a varying amount of time to get the car onto the asphalt, but countless amounts of different people will have been involved in moving the car into production. Although the process may vary from one model or manufacturer to the next, the basic stages of car design are numerous. Here is an overview of what goes into designing a car from Bob Howard Acura.

Specification and planning

The design for a new car will be triggered by something. The manufacturer may want to break into a new market or may decide sales of a particular model are decreasing and a replacement is required. A specification will be drawn up, looking at what it is the new model needs to provide for a customer. A project team is likely to be formed and a plan drawn up. According to the need identified, the planned time to take the car to market could differ dramatically.

Concept design

The initial design of a new car is likely to start with a few basic sketches, which will gradually be produced in more detail and updated as more and more members of the team provide input on the design. Sketches are likely to give way to computer-aided design (CAD) models, which give a more rounded impression of what the car will look like from different angles. Once the CAD models have been agreed upon, the first market research is likely to take place.

Market research

Customer input is vital to the design process and will be sought throughout the process. In fact, customer feedback will probably have prompted the new design to be initiated in the first place. Market research can be an iterative process. There may be many revisions to the initial CAD designs, which can then be progressed to full-size models or replicas. The output of this stage, which can be very time-consuming, is likely to be an approval for detailed engineering to take place. This will be the first time a fully working prototype is produced, normally as a concept car.

Concept car

The concept car, for all intents and purposes, looks and feels like the actual car the manufacturer proposes to bring to market. There may just be one, or there could be multiple variants, in which case the manufacturer will be looking for the most popular model. Concept cars garner feedback from professional critics, members of the public, and even competitors. All of this information allows a final, revised concept car to be chosen, for which approval is then given for the model to go into the final feasibility development stage.

Final design

The final design may still be subject to further revisions. A new three-dimensional model is likely to be produced, and further prototypes may be built. At this stage, a host of different engineering disciplines will be involved in working towards the feasibility of the final design, which will ultimately move into development. Further customer feedback, as well as comprehensive testing, will take place before the final design is approved.

Once the final design is approved, the manufacturer can market the model and start taking orders. Manufacturing processes vary wildly from one model to another, in terms of scale and volume, and the speed with which a consumer can drive a new model will vary considerably too. It may be many years after the first design stage when the first production car actually rolls onto the asphalt.