Los Angeles has been trying for some time to deliver an auto show to match the prestige of its automotive marketplace. Unfortunately, the L.A. show's traditional date just after New Year's Day has put it in the shadow of the Detroit show. For 2005, management countered with "Design Los Angeles," a celebration of the central role that Southern California now plays in worldwide automotive design through the efforts of both design studios and design education.
L.A.'s importance to the automotive industry deserves some recognition. The metropolitan area is home to the U.S. headquarters of no fewer than fifteen different brands, not to mention nearly twenty design studios from car manufacturers all around the world.
Design Los Angeles proved to be both a forum for public discussion of design and an internal review of design issues by principals in the field. A panel discussion in front of the media focused on current conceptual trends.
The most intriguing aspect of the conference was a competition among local studios to conceive the "Ultimate L.A. Machine." Renderings were evaluated for features, function, brag factor, originality, sex appeal, and a uniquely L.A. spirit. The participating studios included BMW Group/Designworks USA, DaimlerChrysler's Pacifica Design Center, Ford's California Advanced Product Creation, General Motors' 5350 Industrial Concepts, Honda Research & Development, Hyundai & Kia Design and Technical Center, Mazda Research & Development, Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America, Mitsubishi Research & Design of North America, Toyota's Calty Design Research, and the Volkswagen/Audi Design Center California.
Three judges chose two winners from thirteen entries. The Superbee, a spidery roadster with a V-8 engine, represented Chrysler Pacifica's vision of a futuristic roadster meant for cruising the Pacific Coast Highway. The people mover from Volkswagen/Audi represented the other end of the spectrum, a self-contained limousine meant to make every trip feel like an outing to the Grammys.