In an artsy cafe in one of the hip and trendy parts of Tokyo, the first ever Ultimate Car Design Battle took place. This was an opportunity for young aspiring designers to show off their skills and take on each other to become number one.

As well as the competitive part, it also gave them a chance to meet and mingle with designers from Japan’s largest automotive companies. Designers representing everyone from Mazda, Yamaha, Subaru, Honda, Isuzu, and Daihatsu were present to judge the works of the night as well as to give tips and advice to the students.


The idea came from CEO of Car Design Academy, Yu Nakasone, got the idea from Detroit, where something similar was also held. The Tokyo version had 22 students in attendance. They were sat around a group of tables with all the supplies they needed; pencils, paper, and Red Bull.

There were two rounds for the battle, each one lasting half an hour. Round 1 was the design a SUV that suited the area of Nakameguro, think Te Aro in Wellington. When the timer started, you feel the flow of creativity rushing through the pens and onto the paper. There was a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in the room as spectators watched the cars being sketched out.


Each person had their own unique take on the single idea. There were SUVs inspired by established brands such as Renault and Lexus, there were SUVs that looked like sporty crossovers, and some were completely new and original. After the 30 mins were up, the judges went about picking out their favourites by placing red dots on them.

When all the points were totted up, the finalists went on through to Round 2. The theme for the second and final round of the evening was to design a “car sharing mobility vehicle” for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It was a great test for designing something attractive and purposeful.


Of the 22, it was down to 11. The final 11 created some fantastically original and interesting designs on their vision of a car sharing vehicle of the future. And props to them too, as the theme was thought of right on the spot meaning they didn’t have time to prepare beforehand.

The overall winner was Atsushi Sasaki, who’s winning design was the orange ‘F-Tower’ mobility car. As the grand winner, he received a certificate acknowledging his victory as well as ¥100,000 prize money. Other runner ups also received prizes from the respective manufacturers supporting the event. These included a Yamaha bike, a signed sketch of the Mazda CX-3, passes to a Super GT event, model cars, and design supplies.


Speaking with some of the students, the hardest thing of the challenge for them was getting an original idea to suit the themes. I also spoke to Youichi Matsuda, Chief Designer at Mazda and was responsible for the CX-3. He said it was a good effort from the students and the event itself was a good idea.

As this was the first of its kind, it was also a trial to see if it’d work in the future. I believe this was a great opportunity for young designers to showcase their work, meet face to face with those in the industry and make important connections. The car designing business is as competitive as ever and any break these designers can get would be hugely beneficial.


After all, the way a car looks are the first impression most people have. It’s what separates Astons from Austins. Imagine a world where Pininfarina hadn’t penned all those iconic Ferrari shapes.

It’ll be interesting to see where car design goes in the future. With car manufactures chasing cleaner, more efficient cars, and with autonomous driving creeping around the corner, cars as we know it might soon disappear. But after seeing the creativity of the students at this event, wherever cars go they’ll sure still have some style.

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Ken Saito
Words cannot begin to describe how much I love cars but it's worth a try. Grew up obsessed with them and want to pursue a career writing about them. Anything from small city cars to the most exotic of supercars will catch my attention.


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