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Detroit show: Aussies take top honours

Lion pride: Part of the Australian General Motors Design team – fronted by GM International vice-president of design Mike Simcoe – and the Buick Avenir.

Australian-designed show cars win major awards at Detroit


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15 Jan 2015

UPDATED: 16/01/2015AUSTRALIAN designers have scooped the pool at the Detroit motor show’s official design awards, with a pair of locally penned stunners taking top honours in motor city this week.

The EyesOnDesign awards handed the Best Designed Production Vehicle trophy to Ford’s third-generation GT that made its surprise debut at the North American auto extravaganza this week.

The two-door halo car was designed by Hobart-raised Ford designer Todd Willing, who was on assignment in Detroit for the Blue Oval before returning to Melbourne to take up the role of design director for Ford Asia Pacific Design.

Judges said the GT won for "capturing the original GT40 in a modern interpretation...and the optimism it showcases for both the Ford brand and the industry”.

The low slung 448kW mid-engined beast beat a couple of classy contenders in the category, edging out Honda’s production-ready NSX sportscar and Mercedes’ X6-fighting GLE-Class Coupe.

While the GT may have a strong Australian connection thanks to its design, unfortunately the super-coupe will not be sold Down Under as it will only be built in left-hand drive configuration.

Coming out on top in the Best Designed Concept Vehicle category was the striking Buick Avenir large sedan, that was not only designed but built in Australia at General Motors Design Australia.

The Avenir started as a sketch by Holden designer Warrack Leach and once it was seen by GM design brass, the local team was tasked with producing the entire exterior design.

GM International vice-president of design Mike Simcoe told GoAuto this week that there was a lot of passion poured into the Avenir design at the Port Melbourne studio.

“There is a subtlety to it but a level of emotional power that you get when you create a surface around this proportion. And the best thing about it, the designers and the modellers doing it, they get very protective and emotional about doing it once they are into it,” he said.

This was also reflected in the judge’s comments, with the jury saying “something special that you could tell designers really liked doing...it represents presence, elegance, sportiness all rolled into one."Holden’s lead exterior designer Warrack Leach said the awards were a huge compliment to him and the teams that worked on them.

“We are all very proud of what we have created so to receive these two awards from EyesOn Design is a great compliment and caps what has been a very exciting project,” Mr Leach said.

The big Buick pipped another Australian-designed concept in the category – the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt hatchback – as well as Mercedes’ wild-looking self-driving F 015 concept.

The Avenir also took out the award for Innovative Use of Colour Graphics and Materials, with judges highlighting its “attention to detail...the way its materials worked together...its understated elegance which was true to the brand”.

Audi's second-generation Q7 was the big winner in the Best Designed Interior category, beating out the Buick Avenir and the Infiniti Q60 concept, with judges praising its "attention to detail...the way its materials worked together...its understated elegance which was true to the brand.".

EyesOnDesign judges are not the only ones impressed by Australia’s achievements, with former industry minister Kim Carr releasing a statement praising the wins for both the GT and the Avenir.

Senator Carr said the victory in Detroit highlighted the level of expertise in Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry.

“Those who like to pretend that Australia will lose nothing if the car industry shuts down completely should take note of the interest aroused by these vehicles at such a major international showcase,” he said.

 “Australia’s auto industry is a great repository of technological capability and design skills that we must strive to retain.

 “If we do so there is hope that the announced departure of the motor vehicle producers will not be the end of an automotive industry in this country.”

The EyesOnDesign awards are the only officially sanctioned awards of the North American International Auto Show.

This year marks the second consecutive year that Ford has taken home the Best Designed Production Vehicle award, after coming out on top in 2014 with the Mustang.

Volvo’s Concept XC Coupe was the winner of last year’s Best Concept award.

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