TOKYO - The Europeans swept the top awards in the first Automotive News International Concept Car of the Year competition.
The awards were announced at last month's Tokyo Motor Show.
More than 50 concepts were eligible for the awards, given in four separate categories. Award eligibility dated back to the Paris show in September 1998 and embraced concepts at the major auto shows in Detroit, Geneva and Frankfurt, as well as events in Los Angeles, Seoul and Barcelona.
This year's Tokyo show concepts will be eligible for the 2000 awards, which will be presented in Paris next September. Separately, the Automotive News International Best in Show award for the Tokyo event was given to the Suzuki Pu3-commuter, which now sets the benchmark for all of next year's entrants. This cute little two-seater is designed to use any of three power units: gasoline, electric or hybrid.
In the Concept Car of the Year category, General Motors took first and second place with, respectively, the Opel G90 and the Cadillac Evoq. The two concepts give a clear indication that GM is chasing Ford's 'new edge' design with a new look of its own for the 21st century - a much sharper and bold appearance.
Third place in the Concept Car of the Year category went to the Citroen C3, which gives an indication of how the French manufacturer's small cars will look in the next few years. Like the Opel G90, the C3 also took other awards, winning the safety award and placing second for interior.
The G90 also won the environmental award thanks to its ultra-economy three-cylinder gasoline engine.
The Pininfarina Metrocubo, the radically styled but very innovative 'cube' from the Frankfurt show, took first place for Best Interior Concept, second in the environment category and third in the safety category.
For the big guys, in addition to Cadillac's Evoq placing second overall, Renault's radical Vel Satis luxury model, which goes into production as the Avantime, took third place in the interior category, and Nissan's SUT pickup/sport-utility gained a second for safety. The Honda VV hybrid took third place in the environmental category.
Best Interior Concept
1. Pininfarina Metrocubo
This car created a lot of interest at the Frankfurt show in September. The very small city car made outstanding use of available space to create an innovative and flexible interior. Elimination of the spare tire on the Metrocubo, thanks to Michelin's PAX run-flat tire system, enabled the stylists to use all of the floor space.
2. Citroen C3
An idea of Citroen's future small-car design, the C3 is smaller than the current Saxo but makes maximum use of interior space, demonstrating practicality and versatility in a futuristic style.
3. Renault Vel Satis
The Vel Satis symbolizes the spirit of Renault's top-range models which are due for launch in the next three years. Its layout fully expresses the company's top-range philosophy: a welcoming ambience, lightness and clarity with attention to small details.
Best Safety Concept
1. Citroen C3
Again, the Citroen caught the judges' eyes in this category, a clever design around a strong passenger cell and a minimalist interior that contains all the necessary safety equipment.
2. Nissan SUT
The Nissan SUT received a lot of praise from the judges but was singled out in this category for the safety packaging in what is a cross between a compact pickup and a sport-utility.
3. Pininfarina Metrocubo
For such a small vehicle - almost a cube, hence its name - the judges were impressed with the safety equipment and how well it can be packaged in the small car of the future.
Best Environmental Concept
1. Opel G90
One of the surprises of the Frankfurt show, Opel's G90 is an innovative, minimal-consumption concept car. Its 60-hp three-cylinder gasoline engine produces only 90 grams of CO2 emission per kilometer, undercutting by more than one-third the limit of 140 grams per kilometer planned by the European Union.
2. Pininfarina Metrocubo
The Metrocubo is the latest in a line of solutions offered by Pininfarina to the problem of congested city roads. It follows the Ethos 3 in 1994 and the Eta Beta in 1996, a multipurpose vehicle just 3 meters long. The Metrocubo is also the result of a collaboration between Pininfarina and a number of suppliers. These include an auxiliary power unit from Lombardini, batteries from Exide Europe and an electric drive system from Siemens AG.
3. Honda VV
Already one of the first large auto companies to market an electric vehicle, Honda maintained its environmental credentials with the VV, a hybrid vehicle with ultra-low emissions.
Concept Car of the Year
1. Opel G90
The G90's design gives a clear indication of the future styling direction of Opel in Europe. Its looks are not only aerodynamic but continue and refine the design language already expressed by the Astra and Zafira.
2. Cadillac Evoq
A car that received universal applause from designers when it was unveiled at Detroit, the Cadillac Evoq gives strong clues to the future design of the company's vehicles, moving away from the current soft, curvy shapes toward something more bold.
3. Citroen C3
For the Concept Car of the Year, judges were looking at aesthetics and clues to future styling directions. The C3 gives a clear sign of where Citroen is heading, and it was nominated in a number of other categories as well as winning the safety award.