If you’re a car enthusiast, you’ve most likely seen a car in camouflage before. These are preproduction cars being tested that the automaker doesn’t want you to see. The reason the automaker doesn’t want you to see it in its real flesh is quite simple; it isn’t finished yet. It may seem somewhat useless, as even through camo most people can typically make out what the car is and even some small details. But the automaker isn’t trying to hide that it’s making that car, it’s trying to hide the unfinished details.
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We recently spoke about how BMW camo’s cars are quite differently from many other automakers. Instead of just putting black and white swirly bits around the car to hide body lines and subtle nuances, BMW creates fake plastic body panels and screws them onto the car, to make it look entirely different. The reason for this is that preproduction cars are not always the best looking cars on the road and the automaker would rather you not see it like that. The automaker would rather wait until the first available auto show for you to check it out in the flesh, so that it’s in good lighting and has beautiful models around it so you look at with rose-colored glasses.
Another reason is that, often times, the body of preproduction car might not even be entirely accurate to the final product, so automotive press might report something wrong and create a mess for the automaker. Recently, the BMW G31 5 Series Touring was spotted driving around in camo. One of the things we noticed was the plug-in door on the front fender, indicating a plug-in hybrid. Another thing we noticed was the twin rectangular exhaust pipes, hinting that it was a 550i. Seeing that it was a camouflaged car, however, allowed us to realize that this was simply just a test mule body of an upcoming 5 Series plug-in on top of a preproduction 550i. If the car hadn’t been camouflaged, a reporter might have taken that and thought that a 550i plug-in hybrid was in the works at BMW. This would create a PR headache for BMW.
Camouflage is still the best way to work on preproduction cars without having them scrutinized in the media by people who don’t understand that it isn’t a final product, as something like that could hurt the reputation of the car company. It also keeps designs fresh, so that the first time you see it, it’s under the automaker’s conditions, conditions that give the car the best possibility to get a good reaction. So despite us knowing almost exactly what each camouflaged car is almost immediately, it’s an imperative process for car companies.