Interview with Bob Miron

Now in its 10th year the 2012 Michelin Challenge Design is in its final decision-making stages to chose the winner of their City 2046: Art, Life, and Ingenuity themed competition.  Participants were asked to design a 'personal, ground-based vehicle that can transport between 2 and 10 people at a time’. They would need to choose to design a vehicle to meet foreseeable needs in Los Angeles, Mumbai, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, or Shanghai in the year 2046.  Though efficiency and sustainability are at the forefront Michelin's mission, in its tenth year’s challenge they wished to return to considering beauty, elegance, and innovation as essential ingredients for automotive design.  We caught up with Bob Miron, Director, OE Technical Marketing at Michelin North America, to get a behind-the-scenes look at Michelin Challenge Design in anticipation of the imminent results.

Green Car Design : The Michelin Challenge Design competition is now in its 10th year, how did it all start?

Bob Miron : Michelin has embraced automotive design and engineering as core values since the company’s start in 1889. The founders, brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin, were an artist and an engineer. Michelin understands both elements are essential for developing products that meet consumer’s needs and desires.  The Michelin Challenge Design program was created to be a dynamic and highly visible expression of the company’s support of automotive design.  Establishing and maintaining a close relationship with the automotive design community enables Michelin to continue to combine technical tire innovation with transportation design to support development of vehicles that consumers want to buy and will enjoy driving.

GCD : How did you get involved in the project? 

BM : The opportunity to explore the potential of future automotive design and transportation issues has always been of great interest to me. It has been personally rewarding to see Michelin Challenge Design grow over the last 10 years both in terms of participants and quality of work.

GCD : Why is there no Michelin Challenge Design in Europe, closer to Michelin headquarters?

BM : Michelin Challenge Design is a global program, in fact.  During the first decade, the program has received design work from participants in more than 100 countries; entries into the 2012 competition included participants from 15 Western and Eastern European countries. Our jury is drawn from top automotive design professionals worldwide, including designers from Europe, Japan, the United States and South Korea, working for OEMs based all over the world.

2012 MCD Jury

Traditionally, the winning designs have been displayed at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Held in Detroit every January, the NAIAS is a top international auto show and truly a world stage. We have been honored that each year several of our winning participants join us in to Detroit to see their work on display.

GCD : The competition is highly esteemed by students and designers worldwide, what do you think is different and special about the Michelin Challenge Design competition?

BM : Michelin Challenge Design’s success is a result of it having created a virtuous circle that benefits all stakeholders. Participants have their work reviewed by top automotive design executives, a coveted opportunity not readily available to many international design students or aspiring automobile designers. Automotive designers participating on the jury get the chance to see new solutions and fresh ideas from all around the world. The input from some of the most influential and successful automotive designers help feed each year’s theme; the work participants submit are answers to questions that are top of mind for these design professionals.

Bob Miron and Chris Benjamin of Volvo 2011

GCD : Do you have any favorite projects that stick in your mind from the last 10 years? (if you have any stock images of the projects they would be good to have for the article)

BM : We have seen so many fantastic projects that I cannot choose a favorite—and some participants have submitted winning work year after year. Over four competitions, five designs from U.S. participant Robert Marvin were selected for display. French participant Thierry Dumaine holds the record, with six designs selected for display in six Challenges.

Theirry Dumaine's 2011 MCD design, drawing displayed at 2011 NAIAS

Two individual entries stand out from the 2011 Michelin Challenge Design for me, though. The theme was “Plus 10: The Best is Yet to Come.”  Participants were asked to design a vehicle for their region that would address driving needs ten years later, in 2021. Shinsuke Aizawa from Tokyo delivered a project called Xsense that expressed his view of how the proliferation of connected technology and demand for highly efficient vehicles can create a new era of personal mobility. Another, and quite different project, that comes to mind came to us from a participant in Russia. The Argish2 was from a team, Artem Afanasev and Aleksey Kazakov, and they envisioned a vehicle suited to the artic and subartic zones of Western Siberia, a tundra of plains with lakes and swamps in summer but a snow-covered wilderness in winter. Those two projects really met the spirit of the competition by identifying a problem and creating a solution.

Artem Afanas'ev and Aleksey Kazakov design, drawing displayed at 2011NAIAS

GCD : Michelin is 'dedicated to the improvement of sustainable mobility', in what way?  Are there any significant milestones?

BM : Michelin’s commitment to the improvement of sustainable mobility is a guiding principal in the engineering, development, design, manufacturing, and all other facets of tire development and production.  Improvements large and small contribute to providing a better way forward for the transportation industry.  Examples include Michelin’s work over the past 18 years in the development of energy-efficient, fuel-saving tires. Michelin currently has a complete line of energy-efficient tires marked with Michelin’s Green X label, designating to consumers a level of energy efficiency among the highest in the market. Michelin has also supported the industry

Since 1988, Michelin has hosted the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, a global event for sustainable mobility. Challenge Bibendum brings together everyone from car lovers to decision makers to actively participate in making sustainable mobility of the future more widely accessible. The 2011 event brought together more than 6000 representatives from politics, science, industry, and media, and was also the first to be open to the public.

GCD : What is your personal view on green car design?

BM : Vehicle design will continue to address consumer demands, including creating vehicles that maximize fuel and space efficiency. Though design provides the bridge that draws many consumers in and communicates the vehicle’s personality and intent, the term “green car design” may mean more than the forms of the exterior and interior design.  The idea of “green car design” should apply to a design method or system. Designers can select materials, shapes and forms that enhance sustainable mobility as well as improve efficiency and performance.

GCD : The 2012 theme is City 2046: Art, Life and Ingenuity Transforming Personal Mobility and entries have closed...what was the general direction of the entries?  What will our cities feel like in 2046?

BM : For the City 2046 challenge, we asked participants to select one of five cities and design for that city’s particular needs. Response was fantastic, as the 2012 Michelin Challenge Design has seen another record number of entries—1800 designers registered for the competition, a 46% increase over 2011. We found that participants were interested in finding solutions for emerging and younger automotive markets more than established markets like Paris and Los Angeles, and that solutions were as varied as the imaginations that brought them forward.  Cities have developed along similar paths, but each region has a specific culture and history that will dictate the specifics of how their transportation needs will be answered.

GCD : Where do you think Michelin will be in the next 10 years?  And yourself?

BM : Michelin will continue to be the industry leader in technology, innovation and design, and I hope to continue to be part of that team.

GCD : Do you have any eco driving tips?

BM : Michelin suggests that selecting the right tire for your vehicle is an excellent start, followed by proper tire maintenance. Proper tire inflation can improve fuel economy, as well as choosing a tire with low rolling resistance such as the Michelin Energy Saver A/S tire. As a driver, you are your biggest asset for improving fuel efficiency. Aggressive driving reduces fuel efficiency, while consistent driving techniques improve fuel economy.

GCD : Thanks!