Bentley, Lamborghini and other ultra-luxury brands are bringing utility vehicles to market and Mercedes-Benz is rolling out a pickup truck. What other new types of vehicles can be created as consumers lose interest in traditional luxury sedans?

That was the latest challenge to College for Creative Studies transportation design students for the eighth-annual WardsAuto Interiors Student Design Competition. And once again they delivered a fascinating variety of futuristic concepts.

Sponsored by International Automotive Components (IAC) and Lear Automotive, with support from SAE International, the competition has a history of helping graduating design students capture attention and job offers from major automakers and suppliers. The assignment is the basis of a semester-long class at CCS where students compete for recognition and special scholarships. The competition was held in conjunction with the 2017 WardsAuto Interiors Conference.

In front of an audience of more than 700 of the auto industry’s top automotive designers and engineers, Eileen Hwang was awarded the grand prize trophy for her beautifully rendered fullsize Volvo SUV concept that converts into a mobile office.

Jenn (Hyojin) Lim received the Lear Innovation Award for her interior concept, which provides extended mobility for elderly and disabled people. Her design features seats that detach from the vehicle and turn into upright motorized wheelchairs that seamlessly transition drivers and passengers to the role of pedestrians. The Lear Innovation Award is given to the student whose work includes specific design or technical innovation the judges deem particularly inspired and forward-thinking.

Eugene Suh received the IAC EcoBlend Award for an original and sophisticated project that uses non-automotive design language from high-end audio system supplier Bang & Olufsen and incorporates innovative and environmentally friendly materials such as artificial leather made from pineapple waste. The IAC EcoBlend Award goes to the student whose design or concept best embraces green mobility and uses lightweight renewable/recyclable materials and other earth-friendly innovations.

Other finalists recognized were Donghun Joung for his exquisitely detailed Rolls-Royce concept and Jisang Kim for an advanced Mercedes-Benz interior inspired by luxury yachts.

The competition was judged by top interior designers from four automakers:

Ryan Patrick Joyce, Design Manager – Jeep Interiors, FCA Product Design Office
Ariel Choi, Lead Designer, Calty Design Research
Chris Hilts, Global Director of Design, Buick Interiors, General Motors
Ryan Niemiec, Interior Design Manager, Lincoln Motor Company

The course was taught by Brian Stoeckel, a creative designer for Chevrolet Performance Interiors at General Motors.

The class kicked off in January with a visit to the North American International Auto Show for inspiration and included visits to IAC and Lear facilities to learn about the latest interior materials and technologies.

The student designs were on display at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference held May 9 and at the WardsAuto booth at SAE World Congress Experience in April.

dwinter@wardsauto.com