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Report: Interior Motives China Conference 2011 – Day 1
by CDN team   
The fourth annual Interior Motives China Conference counted over 300 delegates in attendence. Click for larger images
Panelists on the first session included (from left to right): Andreas Wlasak, VP of Indutrial Deisgn at Faurecia; Xiao Ning, Director of Styling for Guangzhou Automobile Group; Lou Tik of JAC Italy; and Euan Sey, Editor of Interior Motives
Left: Andreas Wlasak, VP of Indutrial Design for Faurecia wrapped up the first session with his presentation; Right; panelist Lou Tik of JAC answers audience questions in the Q and A session
Panelists in the second session (from left): Peugeot Interior Design Director Amko Leenarts, Holt Ware of GM-PATAC and Wulin Gaowa, Advanced Design Director at Beijing Automotive Technology Center with CCS Dean Imre Molnar
Holt Ware, Design Director at PATAC, gave a neat summary of the life and history of the SUV, and first-hand insight of the Chinese market

Over 300 industry delegates gathered for the opening day of the annual Interior Motives China conference, which this year takes place in Shanghai, just a few days prior to the opening of the international auto show on Tuesday.

The title of this year's conference is 'The challenge of being different: establishing a local design direction for China's maturing market', a pertinent topic since China became the biggest new car market in the world. As design debate moves beyond the much-discussed 'C-factor', expert speakers explored what could come next in an exciting – and at times controversial – first day.

The panelists look on as Xiao Ning, Director of Styling for Guangzhou Automobile Group gives his presentation
Xiao Ning, Director of Styling for Guangzhou Automobile Group
Delegates in attendence at the 4th annual Interior Motives China Conference
Chris Bangle interacts with some of his fans
Delegates visit one of the sponsor stands during the coffee break

Session 1: The market for design

The first session of the morning, chaired by Interior Motives editor, Euan Sey, tackled 'The market for design'. Xiao Ning, Director of Styling for Guangzhou Automobile Group used the example of his home city of Ghandou and the local culture there as the basis of a talk, which centered around the question of why designers need to understand the 'soil' that their customers came from. His description of how Guangzhou had used this customer-centric approach to design the Trumpchi sedan neatly led into the talk of Lou Tik, General manager and Design Director at JAC's Italian Design Center.

Tik's talk echoed Ning's sentiments that, in general, a local and targeted design approach would do better in the Chinese market. His talk also brought up for the first time, a point that was made throughout the day: it is not enough to simply design for China as a whole because the country's sheer size and population means tastes and approaches differed wildly by region. Yet these two talks gave little new insight, with later talks by representatives of European OEMs giving much more incisive views on how the market was evolving and on design approaches that might be used to emotionally better engage Chinese customers with a brand and its products.

Andreas Wlasak, VP of Indutrial Deisgn for Faurecia wrapped the session up with a series of market observations and the suggestion that Chinese brands achieving the same level of brand identity and value as European makers would prove difficult any time soon. What Wlasak demonstrated, with the toolbox of various Faurecia solutions, was how products could be tailored, optimized and changed for each market – giving the same interior appeal to a much wider spectrum of tastes, adding design value for less cost.

Session 2: Hot segments

The late morning session focused on 'Hot segments'. While China is characterized by many Westerners by its love of the three-box sedan, the reality is that the market share each vehicle typology has is changing fast. Certainly, judging by the number of BMW X6's we've seen on the road out here, there's a real appetite for some very niche segment vehicles that have only recently gained a foothold in Europe.

Chaired by the Dean of Detroit's College for Creative Studies, Imre Molnar, the session was kicked off by Holt Ware, Design Director at GM-PATAC. Ware gave a neat summary of the life and history of the SUV and first-hand insight into the Chinese market. He suggested the importance of the market and Chinese consumers tastes were such that they were now beginning to influence GM's global strategy. Amko Leenarts, Head of Interior Design at Peugeot, followed this with one of the most compelling presentations of the day, which interestingly, didn't focus on China specifically. 

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