The prestigious , a benefit event for the Detroit Institute of Opthalmology and its research programmes into eye health and education, commend the best concept and production cars unveiled at the Detroit auto show each year.
A stellar line-up of over 30 top-level judges - design directors both current and retired, teachers at the design schools, well-known faces in the industry, listed - was seen touring the exhibition stands, and they selected the following:
- Innovative Use of Color, Graphics or Materials: Nissan Xmotion, with the other finalists the Infiniti Q Inspiration and GAC Enverge. The judges commended the Xmotion's well-crafted wooden interior elements: "a beautiful celebration of natural materials". The sponsors of this award, colour trends analysts Axalta, also took the opportunity to announce their automotive colour for2018: 'Starlite', a clean pearlescent white, like that of the Infiniti.
- Best Designed Interior: for this, judging was based on innovation, functionality, ergonomics and overall ambience. Winner was the Infiniti Q Inspiration, with the other finalists the Ram 1500 and Lexus LF-1 Limitless. Of the Infiniti, the judges said: "Zen mode well-expressed in a beautiful interior with its high tech submerged beneath beauty".
- Best Designed User Experience: this recognised the most successful integration of connectivity, including autonomous systems. Winner was the Ram 1500; the judges liked its "flexible functionality; large screens with individual pre-sets for multiple users". The other finalists were the Acura RDX and Lexus LF-1 Limitless.
- Vehicle Harmonization: this award, for production vehicles, looks for the application of design elements, finishes and innovations for a consistent theme and identity, inside and out, in a holistic approach. Winner was the BMW X2, with the other finalists the Acura RDX and Ram 1500. "A successful execution for an SUV in a small package," said the judges of the X2.
The overall winners in each category were admittedly in a rather small field of new-model and debuting concept contenders.
- Best Production Vehicle was won by the BMW X2, with the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 the other finalists. The judges called the X2 "an important new entry into the small SUV segment".
- Best Concept Vehicle was awarded to the Infiniti Q Inspiration, with the other finalists the Nissan Xmotion and Lexus LF-1 Limitless - confirming our observation that the Japanese carmakers had been most impressive this year in Detroit. "Quiet beauty in its exterior and interior; simplicity reduced," said the judges of the Infiniti.
It wasn't all about the cars and cold metal, though: the biggest applause, and indeed, a standing ovation, went to the 99 year-old Edward Thomas Welburn Snr., father of former GM vice president of design Ed Welburn: the pair stepped up to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Welburn Jnr. paid tribute to some of the legendary designers he had worked with in his long career, including Wayne Cherry, but said that his first inspiration had come from his father, an auto mechanic.
The pair had spent time in the garage together, he said, as well as going to drag races and driving to the New York auto show, and his father was "the first person who really showed me how to draw a car". Welburn Jnr. added that his father had also made his own bodyshop tools at home in their basement workshop, "where I also learned that there was a lot more that I can do... I can also create automobiles myself." A lovely moment.