A car prototype can be considered to be the test model of a new car design that is intended to be produced in mass quantity. There is no company that goes out and starts mass production of a new car, without first creating a prototype of it.
Before a car is actually built, it is designed, researched and developed into a car prototype. It is the researchers who conduct consumer surveys and analyze market trends to get an idea of the type of car people want, and then, based on these findings, car designers design drawings of car prototypes. These drawings help engineers adapt parts in existing cars to be implemented in the new model. This is when they proceed to produce the car prototype. The car prototype will have all these new implementations displayed in it. Most of the manufacturers usually start by building a few car prototypes before actually setting up a factory to build the new car.
A car prototype can also be referred as a test car. These car prototypes are developed to demonstrate the new qualities of their product to clients. By subjecting these car prototypes to numerous tests, the car designer gets to see the strengths, weaknesses, mistakes and limitations in a new car project. Then, by gathering this information, the car designer proceeds to rework the design through the car prototype until the car reaches the objectives of the designer. Sometimes, the participating cars in a race are also called prototypes. The reason for this is that these cars are not mass-produced. These car prototypes are specialized machines that are supposed to showcase new innovations and designs that the car manufacturer carries. These car prototypes are the models for future mass-produced cars the manufacturer will be creating, based on the results of the tests on the car prototype.