The newly announced Yanfeng Automotive Interiors Design Competition is a global event aiming to find and develop outstanding design talents and create innovative automotive design solutions.

The first year’s contest is open to students at two design schools, and is based around two briefs: Both for autonomous vehicle interiors for the year 2030, but one for a personally owned vehicle, and one for a shared-use mobility service.

As Yanfeng is keen to underline, the latest global megatrends such as autonomous driving, connectivity, e-mobility, shared mobility and advanced materials are changing people’s experience inside the vehicle. 

The competition is intended to encourage innovative thinking by providing a unique platform for creative, smart and specialised design, and offers a great opportunity for young design talents to practice, learn with design professionals and take the first step towards their future design career.


Students at Tongji University in Shanghai at the launch of the brief by Yanfeng

Tim Shih, Global Vice President of Design at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors,   told us more in an interview at the recent Frankfurt IAA motor show.  

Q: Tell us about the student design competition.

“It’s been initiated by our parent company, Yanfeng in China, and they wanted to create an event that would help us build a relationship with design students and design schools globally. So we have two schools participating: Tongji University in Shanghai and CCS in Detroit. The theme of the competition is 'Innovation In Motion'.


Tim Shih, Global Vice President of Design at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, launches the competition at Detroit’s CCS

“I was in Detroit just before coming to Frankfurt to kick off the project with the school there. We’re looking at, of course, autonomous – both shared mobility and owned personal vehicles – and asking how young students today see that future, and then what solutions would they imagine or provide for those two scenarios.

“So we’re splitting in both cases the classes into two halves – one that’s doing shared mobility as a service, and the other that’s doing mobility as an owned vehicle. Again we are trying to cover all the bandwidth.”


Q: What are you expecting from entrants?

“We haven’t had the first review yet so I’m curious to see what they come back with. The kickoff was so different than when I was a student. When I was a student it was, OK, our new car is five years down the line, what should it be like?

“When I studied in ’95-’98, it was always the next generation of something existing. But now it’s like, ‘redefine this whole space that moves’. But they’re not put off by that! We had this whole discussion and they’re already shooting out ideas, and how about this, and what about that. I think it’s an exciting time for the industry and it’s an exciting time to be a student.

“The award ceremony is at the end of January   in Shanghai. It’s not a competition between the schools, but out of the proposals we get from each school we will select four students in different categories – best concept, best innovation, best seating and best CMF [colour, materials and finish] concept. So four from each school. And then the four from CCS will actually be flown to Shanghai for the award ceremony, and with those eight proposals we will also do scale models for the students.”


Q: What would you pitch to students as good reasons to join Yanfeng?

“The same reasons why I joined – you'll get broad exposure across different brands, across different markets globally, and the chance to work in different places and the chance to not only work on production vehicles but also innovation, like we see in XiM18. So there’s the full range of the automotive interior. There’s not many other companies, if any, that cover all of that. Even within an OEM, typically you’re either within a production studio, or in an advanced design studio, and it’s much more siloed than at Yanfeng.”

Q: So you might learn more, more quickly at YFAI.

“Exactly, you’ll get broader exposure.”