Last week, a video depicting a red BMW coupe turning into an honest-to-god Transformer complete with a booming robot voice made the rounds online, leading me to wonder a couple of things.
For one, how and why does a company that turns luxury cars into humanoid robots exist, and how much does one of these things cost?
Personally, I can't imagine buying a car right now, much less a car that I can't drive because it's packed with all the electronics needed to turn into a giant talking Dalek.
To find out, I called Turgut Alpagot, a spokesperson for the company behind the transforming cars, Turkey-based R&D company Letvision, at their office in Ankara. After he reminded me that they can't call these things Transformers—they instead use the term "Letrons"—I asked how much one costs to buy.
The company doesn't have a set price for a Letron, Alpagot said, but plans to negotiate with interested buyers individually. And so I guessed: How about $500,000? No. How about $1,000,000? No.
"I declare to you—not one million, not one billion," said Alpagot. "Well, okay, maybe one billion."
It's not so much the money that matters in deciding who gets a Letron, Alpagot said, but the marketing opportunity for Letvision—which also develops touch screen technology—and Turkish industry as a whole.
"If someone said," he continued, "my boss is very rich and he wants a Letron, can I get a budget for one? No. No budget for that. Because, what will he do with our Letrons? What will he do with my robot?"
He said that he would part with a Letron if it was part of a Madonna concert, though.
Letvision was founded in 2009 and is supported by Turkey's Ministry of Industry and KOSGEB, a government body that funds small and medium-sized industrial businesses, the company's site states.
"We want to show the world our research and development power as Turks," Alpagot said. "We're also a commercial firm and want to make money on this."
Alpagot wouldn't tell me how much it costs Letvision to take a luxury coupe and turn it into a Transfor—er, Letron—saying that it's a "company secret," but he would say that the turnaround time for building a Letron is about two months. But the company's goal, he said, is to get that time down to about two weeks and start mass producing them and in smaller sizes.
Yes, the company that wouldn't sell a giant talking robot car to a millionaire wants Average Joe and Jane to have their very own, mass produced, giant talking robot cars.
It's pretty hard to imagine most people shelling out their hard-earned cash for something that would accomplish little more than sit in your driveway and piss off neighbours, but Alpagot said that with enough funding and time they could manage to make the Letrons driveable, which might make them a bit more appealing.
For now, though, I'll stick with my bike.
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