DETROIT – What will the interior of a family sedan look like 12 years from now?

That was the challenge given 17 talented transportation-design students at the College for Creative Studies in a competition sponsored by WardsAuto and interior suppliers Lear and International Automotive Components.

In the fourth annual WardsAuto Interiors Student Design Competition, young stylists were given the task of creating a roomy, practical family sedan aimed at first-time buyers in the year 2025.

The sedan needs to offer all the amenities of a minivan in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package. The typical customer is “the Johnsons” a family of five with three young children that is looking for an affordable, kid-friendly sedan.

Four finalists in the competition were announced today at a special ceremony during the 2013 SAE World Congress. They are Johad Ellis, Merrill Mathew, Kirill Ponomarenko and Harrison Schillinger.

The finalists were selected by four top auto industry designers: Scott Strong, director-design at Ford; Klaus Busse, head of interior design at Chrysler; Ariel Choi, lead designer at Toyota; and Eric Clough, director-Cadillac interior design at General Motors.

WardsAuto asked the four judges to evaluate the student designs on these criteria:

  • Realistic usage of technologies and materials.
  • Unique ambient lighting concepts.
  • Innovative ideas for driver interaction (while minimizing driver distraction).
  • Safety features for 2025 that meet consumer demands and government regulations.
  • Overall design. How does it all come together?

Instructor Joann Jung, manager-global interior design strategy at Ford, guided the students and helped them keep their projects within agreed-upon boundaries.

The design brief calls on students to base their projects on a model from WardsAuto’s Upper Middle Car segment, evolved forward to 2025. This category is defined as having four or five doors, measuring 185 ins. to 200 ins. (4,699 mm to 5,080 mm) long, with a base price of $21,501 to $32,000 in 2012 dollars.

The cars currently in this segment include the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and 14 other models.

The student projects will be on display at the SAE World Congress through April 18 at Cobo Center in Detroit in booth M-1307.

The student projects also will be on display at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference May 22 at The Henry hotel in Dearborn, MI, where the grand-prize winner will be revealed, along with the recipients of special awards from IAC and Lear.

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.

The IAC EcoBlend Award will go to the student whose design or concept best embraces green mobility or uses lightweight, renewable/recyclable materials and other Earth-friendly innovations.

dwinter@wardsauto.com