The characteristics of a production vehicle or production car are mass-produced identical models, offered for sale to the public, and able to be legally driven on public roads (street legal). Legislation and other rules further define the production vehicle within particular countries or uses. There is no single fixed global definition of the term.
The term production car had come into vogue by about 1917 in the United States. The phrase was a shortened form of "mass-produced car". The phrase was also was used in terms of the car to be made in production, as opposed to the prototype.
At that time production cars referred to cheaper vehicles such as Model T's that were made in relatively large numbers on production lines, as opposed to the more expensive coach built models. Now the term has broadened to include vehicles that are hand assembled, or assembled on a production or assembly line. The main criteria being that there are a number of the same model with the same specifications.
There is no fixed definition of the number of vehicles or the amount of modification allowed outside of motorsports or national regulations or laws that determine what is or is not a production vehicle. For instance, Guinness recognises a modified Jaguar XK120 as the world's fastest production car in 1949. The 2011 Guinness Book of Records listed the Bugatti Veyron as the world's fastest production car, but only five of this version were said to have been made. In 2013 their decision was appealed on the ground that the Bugatti was a modified version - the limiter was turned off. Guinness upheld the appeal and initiated a review of their production car definition. The outcome of the review was that turning off the limiter was not a fundamental modification and the Bugatti record was reinstated. Guinness were also reported as saying that at least 50 identical vehicles were needed to be made to constitute a production car.
When used in motorsports, the term is quite exact and a certain number of a model must be produced in order to qualify for the term. The 1968 FIA rules stated that production cars were, for sports cars, at least 25 identical cars produced within a 12 month period and which were meant for normal sale to the individual purchasers. FIA rules tend to allow a degree of modification from the original.
The Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, which is concerned solely with the speed of a vehicle, uses its own definition of a production vehicle. The Association allows quite a high level of modification over the original. In 2006 a Pontiac TransAm was classified as being the fastest production model with a top speed in excess of 297 mph. Road tests of the same type of car available from the production line were incapable of anything like this speed and Popular Mechanics referred to the car as production based, which was probably a more accurate description.
Various countries have laws that define production vehicles. For example, in the United States Briggs Cunningham's business was classified as a hobby by tax officials because he did not manufacture enough of each model for the Cunningham automobile to be considered a production vehicle, but rather the IRS classified them as high-performance prototype automobiles built as racecars. Legislative definitions tend to revolve around issues of safety or revenue (taxation).
Some performance specialists, such as Alpina who modify BMW's, are recognized as vehicle manufacturers by government bodies. This brings them within the definition of a production vehicle in their country. Not all performance specialists are officially recognised and their cars are not usually referred to as production vehicles.
Motor vehicle production statistics are available for countries worldwide, by country, make, and model. Production statistics by country and by model, as far as announced, are available for each make as well.
From concept car to production model
Pre-production cars come after prototypes or development mules, which themselves may be preceded by concept cars. Pre-production vehicles are followed by production vehicles in the mass production for distribution through car dealerships.
- Aftermarket (automotive)
- Car classification
- Concept car
- Development mule
- Euro NCAP
- Mass production
- Pre-production car
- Production car racing
- Production World Rally Championship
- Product lifecycle management
- Vehicle category
- Vehicle regulation
- World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations
Three lists within Wikipedia illustrate the difficulty in defining what a production car is. These are:
- List of automotive superlatives
- List of fastest production cars
- List of fastest production cars by acceleration
The definition of a production car for the first two lists, arrived at after debate among interested Wikipedians, was vehicles
- that are constructed principally for retail sale to consumers, for their personal use, and to transport people on public roads (no commercial or industrial vehicles are eligible);
- that have had 20 or more instances made by the original vehicle manufacturer, and offered for commercial sale to the public in new condition (cars modified by either professional tuners or individuals are not eligible); and
- that are street-legal in their intended markets, and capable of passing any official tests or inspections required to be granted this status.
The List of fastest production cars by acceleration uses a different definition. In this list a production car is described as:
- full production cars only: race-only, classic, concept, modified and "one-off" cars of any kind are not considered.
The term full production car is defined only by the exclusions.
The talk pages for all these articles continue to have ongoing discussions about the definitions.
- The Saturday Evening Post, Volume 190, Issue 1, G. Graham, 1917, page 43
- The Olympia Motor Show London, The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, Tuesday 6 January 1920, page 8
- Cartoon, Auckland Star, Volume LVII, Issue 302, 21 December 1926, Page 16
- The Speedy Car, Display Advertisement, The Times, London, England, Oct 25, 1919; pg. 17; Issue 42240
- Hodges, David; Burgess-Wise, David; Davenport, John; Harding, Anthony (1994). The Guinness Book of Car Facts and Feats (4 ed.). London: Guinness Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 0851127681.
- http://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/265-7-mph-hennessey-venom-gt-claims-fastest-195530561.html Alex Lloyd
- "Market Reports". Retrieved 2006-08-30.