It's obviously not explained well in the movies. The Autobot twins manage to choose two new cars that they will transform into after they have already transformed into a vehicle and the same for Bumblebee (it's the same car, but a newer model).

How do transformers select the vehicles that they transform into? Can they select any vehicle to transform into, or are they limited by mass/shape/programming?

  • 4
    everyone knows you pick a car based on color. who cares how it looks or performs. i'm sure the transformers are the same way.
    – Xantec
    Sep 30, 2011 at 12:00
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    And a related question: what is the point of being a Transformer (in the 1980s sense) if nowadays you can easily assume any form you see? Sep 30, 2011 at 12:06
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    I guess it depends who is sponsoring the movie. Jan 18, 2012 at 15:26

2 Answers 2


"Michael Bay" Transformers can choose any form, but there is a size/mass limitation.

In the Michael Bay movies, Transformers have an existing robot mode and personality, but can at any time scan a vehicle to use as an alt mode. Their robot mode "armor" changes to accommodate this new form, but the underlying robot's appearance and mass are basically unchanged. Presumably this requires some extra energy and effort on the Transformer's part, so they don't do it very often.

However, mass shifting doesn't exist in the Michael Bay movies, so presumably Transformers need to choose vehicle modes that are similar in size and mass to their current robot form. Jazz could not have scanned and adopted the form of a large truck, and Optimus Prime could not have duplicated a sports car. Within those limitations, though, personality becomes the driving factor. Jazz's personality was such that given an entire showroom of GM vehicles to choose from, he picked the most prominent and stylish one.

Other Transformers series have dealt with the question in different ways.

In some iterations of the cartoon (Beast Wars and Robots in Disguise come to mind), unformed Transformers exist in what's called a "protoform" status, hidden away inside a cocoon and apparently formless. The protoform scans a vehicle (or an animal, or a fossil, or even, in the case of Robots in Disguise Scourge, a human, truck and Autobot all at the same time) and uses that as a template for its robot and alt mode as well as its personality. No mass shifting takes place; a protoform that scanned a small rat would transform into a gigantic rat (Beast Wars Rattrap).

In the original G1 cartoon, Transformers need to be physically rebuilt in order to adopt a new alt mode, and thus their alt modes were chosen for them by whoever was doing the rebuilding.

  • Who was the human rat-truck?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Feb 2, 2012 at 11:44
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    @Pureferret Clarified in answer. Feb 2, 2012 at 14:04

For most of them in the first movie at least, it appeared that they chose one of the first vehicles that they saw after arriving on Earth. But, as we saw from Bumblebee, they can change it at any time.

  • +1. In the first movie, there is a scene with a Transformer (Optimus Prime?) who arrives on Earth and, after scanning a nearby transport, immediately transforms into it. We have also seen transformations into mobile phones, computer monitor, copy machine etc.
    – rems
    Sep 30, 2011 at 13:32
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    Alternatively, also in the first and second movies we saw that when given power from the Cube any electronic/mechanical device could come alive (turn into a Transformer?)
    – Xantec
    Sep 30, 2011 at 14:14
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    > We have also seen transformations into mobile phones, computer monitor, copy machine etc. And, somewhat ridiculously, people.
    – Rob
    Sep 30, 2011 at 17:28
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    All discussions about the absurdity or feasibility aside, the turning into people thing is from "canon", ... they were called the Pretenders. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretenders_(Transformers)
    – eidylon
    Oct 3, 2011 at 16:54
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    @Wikis: yeah, i know it wasn't exactly the same, but similar enough to not be without precedent in-universe I'd say. Thanks for fixing the link though, ... didn't realize the last parenthesis had gotten cut off.
    – eidylon
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:27

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