2016 GAC WitStar Concept: More Than Just a Fish Tank

Written By: EightySix

                                                      GAC Witstar PHEV CONCEPT

This week at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, all the big boys were present: Toyota, Ford, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and many others. Brands you know and trust. GAC was there too.


Who?

To go from nobody to somebody in the international auto scene, you need to do something to stand out. GAC did that with their WitStar PHEV Concept.


The One With the Fish Tank

Want people to talk about your car? Do something wacky like mount an aquarium between the rear seats. Before you start to think about the climate control tricks necessary to maintain the proper temperature, realize they are plastic fish. Freeze them solid in the winter or boil them in the summer. They'll forgive you.

Not only the tank is eye-catching. The compact SUV sports a set of Model X-like falcon doors. Are they becoming a cliche or are they truly a great idea? When one door opens the entire side of the car to expose both rows of seats, it works. Easy in and easy out. If the WitStar's doors hinge straight up, like the Tesla, it's more convenient in tight spaces like the sliding doors on a van.

The front end features aggressive vents and a lighted grille. Lots of showy lights sparkle throughout the interior including the backs of the 180-degree swiveling front seats. The floor is wood with lots of plastic all around. The front seats look more like a sci-fi prop than something you'd want to sit in. The back seats have a curved back and an odd angle at the front, as if you'd sit facing inward at a 20-degree angle.

GAC Witstar PHEV Concept. Courtesy - GAC Motor


Under the Hood?

The power details sound good. The setup is similar to the Chevy Volt, with a 1.0 liter four cylinder serving as a range extender for an electric motor and a 13 kWh lithium ion battery. 127 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque for a smallish SUV is not bad. Noteworthy is GAC's claim of 62 electric miles. Overall range is 370 miles with an estimated MPGe of 117.

It will have autonomous driving features as well, in case you need to swivel around and feed the fish. Laser radar, a high speed CCD camera, an infa-red camera and GPS will combine to paint a 3D image of the world around the WitStar. The system can use this information to control steering, braking and acceleration.


Who is GAC?

They aren't entirely a nobody. They are a major player in China, the fastest growing new car market in the world. GAC (Guangzhou Automotive Group Co. Ltd.) was founded in 1997. It soon purchased Changfeng Automobile and a majority of Gonow. Through joint ventures with Fiat, Honda, Mitsubishi and Toyota, it has grown to China's sixth largest automaker. Last year it sold a million vehicles.

Several of its Trumpchi brand vehicles were featured in Transformers: Age of Extinction. GAC badly wants to crack into the American and European market. It also showed its GS4 SUV and GA6 Limited sedan in Detroit this year.


Is This Thing For Real?

The fish tank will never make it to production. Like a jackalope on the wall, it's just a wacky conversation starter. The futuristic interior may be too unique for everyday, but GAC may really have two things going for it with the WitStar.

If the performance numbers are real, that 62 mile range makes it a bigger Mitsubishi i-MiEV with more style plus a range-extender. People are going nuts over 50 miles for a Chevy Volt.

And the autonomous gadgets could be game-changing. Even if you don't drive blind-folded, the features can prevent accidents. Plus the WitStar's extensive data should be useful settling post-collision arguments over who-hit-whom.

Consider that GAC said the GS4 will come with a $16,000 price tag. Perhaps if the WitStar could cut extraneous LEDs and Star Trek designers from the budget, it would sell for under $20,000?