Why Do Car Companies Make Concept Cars?

I was reading some Seth Godin lately and a couple of comments he made about the car industry struck a chord with me.

I've never been able to understand how Tesla was allowed to exist. How did these industry giants seemingly miss the boat entirely with electric cars?

For that matter, how was it that a search engine pioneered the vision of a driverless future?

Seth's contention (I'm sure my simplification is a disgrace to his eloquence) is essentially that these companies live in the world where their customers dont want revolutionary ideas. They serve the masses, not the early adopters.

In other words, they (and we) are happy to let Tesla and its first customers be pioneers and work out all the kinks while we buy the same old cars. Then, once enough of us decide there's sufficient momentum to board the train (and the bugs have been mostly eradicated), Detroit will follow suit and off we all will be with our electric cars 10 years from now.

I believe Seth is 100% on the money in his assessment. So why then does an organization that is mediocre by design waste millions upon millions of dollars every year just to prove that they could be extraordinary if only they really wanted to?

I understand the business philosophy of these companies to do what works and sell to the masses. (I dont agree with it, but I understand it.)

Most companies eventually hit an inflection point where it's simply easier to make money doing the same old thing. Then they wait and watch as a startup revolutionizes what they do, wait for a horse to start leading the race for the early adopters, and then acquire them right before what they did goes mainstream.

Rinse and repeat.

But if that's your plan, why waste time and money pretending to be something you're not to an audience that, by design, isnt your target market anyway?

Instead, why not follow through on that promise or dont make it in the first place. If you think what you're making is so revolutionary that it's 5 or 10 years ahead of it's time, just go ahead and start the revolution!

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