“All-out weird” is how Robert Lutz, with his usual frankness, describes the current slate of concept vehicles unveiled at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit Auto Show.

The former Chrysler vice chairman says the concept vehicles conjured up images of “demented toasters, furious bread machines and vengeful trash compactors.”

Referring to himself as “an elder statesman in the automotive industry,” Mr. Lutz chastises automotive designers for concepts “that seem to be drowning in a sea of sameness — high belt lines, tiny windows, flat fronts, rhomboidal headlights and slab sides.”

“Cars, like birds and fish, move within a fluid environment,” he says. “You don't see many fish or birds with flat, snowplow ends, faceted eyes and jagged protuberances.”

The industry might experience a real downturn if any of the concepts reach actual production, predicts Mr. Lutz, now chairman and CEO of Exide Technologies and co-owner of Cunningham Motors.

“Because ugly cars don't sell,” he says.