Imagine if you could remove the seats from your Jeep and use them as high-tech sleds for a weekend of winter fun with friends and family.

We won’t see that option coming in the next model year, but it’s fun to dream. And dreaming is what the WardsAuto Interiors student design competition is all about.

Now in its third year, WardsAuto is partnering with International Automotive Components Group and Lear to sponsor an automotive interior design competition with students from the Transportation Design Department of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

Students are encouraged to turn their imaginations loose to visualize interiors that will appeal to youthful consumers in the future. And once again, the CCS students are wowing us with their inspiration.

Kisun Shin’s fanciful sledding concept is one of many engaging ideas emerging from this year’s 15-week interior design class.

Other students are using styling cues from running shoes, bike helmets, motorcycles and hockey equipment, all with an eye on light weight, strength and safety. When we last reviewed their progress in mid March, they all were making stunning progress.

While ingenuity is encouraged, CCS instructor Robert Walker, who is a senior designer at Chrysler, is keeping the students within agreed-upon boundaries to ensure their projects will resonate with potential employers.

The basic design brief, created by WardsAuto editors, calls for students to conceive an interior for a small cross/utility vehicle with dimensions similar to a Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass or Nissan Juke.

The target customer is a 25-year-old young professional with an active lifestyle, lots of friends and a busy social life.

The brief also includes the following elements:

  • Realistic use of technologies and materials that are likely to be available in 2025.
  • Unique ambient lighting concepts that enhance design and use color and light in innovative ways.
  • Designs that incorporate new ways of interacting with the vehicle and functions, such as motion sensors, to activate lighting and infotainment functions.
  • Distracted driving needs to be taken into account and discouraged.
  • Manufacturing costs considered so the target price of the vehicle remains affordable in 2025 dollars.
  • Safety features that at least meet 2012 requirements and ideally anticipate stricter guidelines for 2025.
  • Overall design that makes sense for the driver and the chosen brand.

All design entries will be on display at the SAE World Congress April 24-26, at Cobo Center, in Detroit, the WardsAuto booth M-1319. Finalists will be unveiled during a ceremony at the booth on April 25 at 4:30 pm. 

The finalists then will be honored at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference on May 17, at The Henry Hotel in Dearborn MI, where the grand prize winner will be announced, along with recipients of special awards from IAC and Lear.

The Lear Innovation Award will be bestowed upon the student whose work includes a specific design or technological 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 utilizes lightweight renewable/recyclable materials and other Earth-friendly innovations. 

dwinter@wardsauto.com