PARIS – A 20-year-old Romanian studying car design in Italy won €6,000 ($7,816) and an Xbox 360 for his Peugeot Flux concept car, beating 2,968 others in Automobiles Peugeot’s fourth global design contest open to anyone.
And for the first time, Peugeot is interested in the career of the winner, Mihai Panaitescu.
“Until now, we have never hired a winner,” Style Peugeot Director Gerard Welter says. “The designs were not mature enough. But today, we pose the question. We are thinking about hiring him for an internship.”
Peugeot judges said the Flux roadster met the themes of the contest – elegance, simplicity and lightness. In addition, Welter says, Panaitescu was able to translate some design elements from the heavy, imposing front of the 2003 Peugeot Hoggar concept car – an off-roader – and make them light and simple for his Flux.
Peugeot will build a fullsize model of the Flux, as it has done for the three previous winners of its Concours de Design Peugeot, and display it at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Welter gave Panaitescu, the youngest by eight years to win the contest, about as high a compliment as a non-professional could receive: “This could be an automobile project.”
Peugeot General Manager Frederic Saint-Geours says Peugeot began the contest in 2000 in an attempt to celebrate the new millennium, and it has continued because of the importance of style to the brand. Contests are announced at the Paris auto show, and the model of the winner is presented at the Frankfurt auto show a year later.
Peugeot has been working on its current style signature – catlike eyes and a big open mouth for a grille – since the 407 was introduced in 2004. Saint-Geours says there won’t be a change in direction until all the cars share a family resemblance, and then it can evolve in a new direction.
A total of 10 designs reached the finals. Peugeot gave third place and €2,000 ($2,605) to the heavily technical Allscape SUV, designed by a Venezuelan, and €3,000 ($3,908) to the second place N JOOY, a playful electric car with the idea of spherical wheels. They also will receive Xbox 360 consoles from co-sponsor Microsoft Corp.
The Flux will be turned into a video-game car that can race with Ferraris and Subarus in the virtual world. Microsoft will determine the performance of the car so that it is compatible with whatever it races against. Panaitescu designed it to be powered by a fuel cell, which would give it good electric torque for quick takeoffs, but would limit its top speed.
Video games are a sort of translation between young people and the automobile world they will enter one day, Saint-Geours says. “There is a synergy between our Internet contest and video games.”
Of the 4,000 projects entered in the contest, 41% came from Central and Eastern Europe and Asia, against 30% in Western Europe and only 4% in North America, where Peugeot has been absent for decades. The country submitting the most projects was China, followed by France, Turkey and Mexico.
Peugeot will present Panaitescu with his prize at the Geneva auto show next month. There, the auto maker also will unveil three new models hitting the market this year: The 207CC, the 4007 SUV built by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and the 207 SW.
The 4007 will be presented as a concept dressed by Holland & Holland, the British gunmaker that has branched out into adventure planning and ready-to-wear. The 207 SW, a station-wagon version of the B-segment 207, also will be presented as a concept, but the metal and glass, including the triangular rear sidelights, will arrive on the market with the series car next summer.