As GM Design celebrates its 85th birthday this month, the 1,900 men and women in GM’s 10 global design centers are focused on the future, united in their vision to entice consumers to fall in love and see vehicles as they do art that moves you.
GM was the first automobile manufacturer to single out automotive design. On June 23, 1927, the Executive Committee of General Motors approved the creation of a new department to solely “study the question of art and color combinations in General Motors products” and hired Harley Earl, a custom coach builder from Hollywood and the creator of the 1927 LaSalle, as its leader. Among Earl’s numerous accomplishments are the development of concept cars; the yearly model changeover; the vehicle tailfins of the 1950s; the traveling Motorama auto shows and the development of the iconic Corvette. Earl also is credited with hiring the industry’s first female automotive designers.
“Our global team is united around its passion for designing vehicles that make an emotional connection with customers,” said Ed Welburn, GM vice president, Global Design. “What was true 85 years ago is still true today: A designer’s role is to create a beautifully executed exterior with great proportions to draw you in, and an interior environment that invites you into a relationship that develops and grows.”
Under Welburn’s strategic eye, Cadillac and Buick have each undergone a design renaissance, and Chevrolet has become a global brand with a globally recognized design language. Vehicle introductions that have helped propel GM’s resurgence include the Chevrolet Camaro sports car, Malibu midsize sedan and Cruze compact car; the Cadillac CTS Coupe, GMC Terrain, and the Buick Enclave and LaCrosse.
Welburn and his global design team say their best work lies ahead. Tomorrow’s classic cars, he said, are on the sketchpads and computers of today’s designers. GM Design is at the forefront of an ongoing global product renaissance that will see 70 percent of the vehicle portfolio replaced within the next three years.
“Our global structure allows us to design more new vehicles and to dedicate more people using the latest technology and tools to bring them to market,” said Welburn. “The diversity of thought, experience, culture and perspective we foster here is unrivaled, and it fuels our creative process. Though we have multiple design centers, our mission is clear: Every new product we develop has to be a home run; each one has to be a great vehicle.”
Alongside with its 85th anniversary, GM Design announced a revised organizational structure and executive appointments that align it more closely with the company's brands across its network of 10 Design Centers around the world to drive stronger and common messaging across a brand’s portfolio, allow designers to better understand and design for customers, provide for greater parts sharing across brands, and foster more creativity and provide a clear, single purpose for each design team member.
"This new structure provides a foundation to build and grow the design language for each of our brands moving forward," said Ed Welburn, GM vice president for Global Design. "It gives our design teams a greater opportunity to create products and brands that have an emotional connection with our customers and that continue to move our company forward."
"Strengthening our Advanced Design organization will allow us to help the company develop innovative new technologies and strategies to meet the future transportation needs of the global marketplace," Welburn said. "One thing is clear: Success will require a variety of mobility solutions that are striking both in their execution and their efficiency."
The new structure and executive appointments are effective Aug. 1. The following executives will report to Welburn:
Ken Parkinson, currently executive director, North American Exterior Design/Global Architecture Strategy and Chevrolet "Brand Champion," is appointed executive director, Global Chevrolet and GMC Design.
Mark Adams, currently vice president – GM Europe Design and "Brand Champion" for Opel/Vauxhall, will relocate to Warren and is appointed executive director, Global Cadillac and Buick Design.
David Lyon, currently executive director – North American Interiors/Global Cross-Brand Design and Buick/GMC "Brand Champion," will relocate to Russelsheim, Germany and is appointed vice president – GME Design, with an emphasis on growing the Opel/Vauxhall brand. Lyon will sit on the leadership team of Karl-Friedrich Stracke, president, GM Europe and CEO of Opel/Vauxhall.
Clay Dean, currently director – North American Advanced Design and Cadillac "Brand Champion," is appointed to the new position of director – Global Advanced Design. Dean will serve as the lead integrator and coordinator of all Advanced Design activity around the world.
Bryan Nesbitt, vice president – GMIO Design and "Brand Champion" for Wuling and Baojun, will continue to serve as the lead voice for Design in the GMIO region and focus on developing and growing the company's operations in China and India. Nesbitt will continue to sit on GMIO President Tim Lee's leadership team.
Mike Simcoe, executive director – GMIO Design and "Brand Champion" for Holden, will continue to focus on developing and growing the company's operations in Korea and Australia.
Carlos Barba, executive director – GM South America Design, will continue in his leadership role of GM Design in Brazil.
Teckla Rhoads, director – Global Industrial Design, will continue to lead the global responsibility of Industrial Design.
Mark Leavy, executive director – Global Design Operations, will continue in his current leadership role.