China is known as the place where a superstar foreign architect can win an international design competition and see their bold, dazzling creation actually see construction.
Volkswagen has turned this model on its head for their yearlong The People's Car Project, which sought concepts for future vehicles not from superstar designers, but from the great, and local, masses. Chinese citizens could access a Chinese-language Volkswagen portal to upload ideas for transportation concepts they'd like to see, and by the 11-month mark, 33 million people had visited the site. Here's the PCP's fun pitch video:
Schoolgirl Wang Jia of Chengdu was one of the first winners, and while her hovercraft idea would be a bit difficult to produce, Volkswagen did what they could—and even incorporated her parents, in keeping with the family-centric nature of Chinese society:
The plan was to run the project for just one year, but following the strong interest--not to mention the nearly 120,000 concepts uploaded—VW is pleased with the level of engagement they've achieved, and have decided to indefinitely extend the run-time. "We are no longer just building cars for, but also with customers," said Luca de Meo, VW Director of Marketing, "and at the same time initiating a national dialog which gives us a deep insight into the design preferences, needs and requirements of Chinese customers.... If at some time in the future we are to produce a vehicle from the 'People's Car Project', it will be a combination of customers' opinions and brand tradition."
There's loose talk of expanding the project to markets outside of China; we'll keep you posted if we hear anything.