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Wed, Apr. 07, 2004
GM's new design chief goes with gut, gauges crowd for inspiration
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO - (KRT) - Ed Welburn quietly slipped into Chicago, grabbed a cab to McCormick Place South, purchased a ticket to the Chicago Auto Show and walked each aisle to absorb every vehicle on display.

But, in addition to checking out the hardware, the newly appointed vice president of design for General Motors had one other task.

"I wanted to see where the crowds were," he said, recognizing that it's the consumer who serves as judge and jury when it comes to accepting or rejecting a vehicle based on how it looks.

"Auto shows are extremely important to us. It's where we share some of our ideas (for the future) while holding others back," he said in an interview.

"We develop a lot of vehicles internally. Not all turn out to be great ideas and not all great ideas are brought to the show for obvious reasons," he said, referring to tipping the hand to the competition.

"But Solstice turned out to be a great idea that we brought to the auto show, and the reception it received at the shows helped bring the car to life," Welburn said of the Pontiac roadster that GM will put into production for the 2006 model year.

At this year's show, a pair of concepts took center stage for GM, the Saturn Curve coupe and Chevrolet Nomad crossover sport wagon.

The pair are important, and Welburn said he watched the reaction closely because both are built off the same small, rear-wheel-drive Kappa platform as the Solstice and hint at possibilities of other Kappa derivatives.

GM has said it will build 20,000 Solstice roadsters annually at a Wilmington, Del., plant that has capacity for 100,000 vehicles annually. That means there's plenty of room to add more vehicles to amortize cost, and Welburn needs to know whether these or other Kappa derivatives that his staff has done are possible production candidates.

Welburn, like most automotive designers, marches to a different drummer. A handshake, for example, becomes a quick survey of the greeter's watch in looking for even a hint of a design trait that could be translated onto a car.

Welburn, a native of Philadelphia, is married and has two children. He received a bachelor's degree from the College of Fine Arts at Howard University in Washington, in 1972 where he studied product design and sculpture.

He began his GM career in 1972 at the Design Center as an associate designer in the Advanced Design Studios and in 1973 joined the Buick Exterior Studio, where he was part of the team that designed the 1977 Buick Park Avenue and Riviera.

In 1975, Welburn joined the Oldsmobile Exterior Studio, where he contributed to the design of the '78 Cutlass Supreme, as well as the Olds Calais Indianapolis 500 Pace Car in 1985, a project that led to his work on the design of the Olds Aerotech.

After stints with Saturn and GM in Europe, he was named director of GM's Corporate Brand Center in Warren, Mich., in 1998. His team had responsibility for developing GM's auto show cars, including the 2000 Chevrolet SSR, the 2002 Chevrolet Bel Air, as well as the 2002 GM Hy-Wire fuel-cell concept.

Last year he was named vice president of design, only the sixth person to hold that title in GM history.

Like Wayne Cherry, his predecessor as chief of design, Welburn recalls that GM styling wasn't always held in awe. In the 1980s, GM was chided for badge engineering, using no more than different grilles to distinguish one division's vehicles from the others.

"Design was stifled in a box until Bob Lutz came along and opened the door to take full advantage of vehicle design," Welburn said.

In the '80s and '90s GM designers catered to the whims of the sales and marketing department, but with Lutz's arrival in 2001 "we all became partners in design," he said.

Full Article Here


206 Posts
:bounce: It would be nice if Ed Wellburn would come out with a sleeper like the

dodge rumble bee limited production .Hope he removes his corporate blinders.

Look back at the limited production trucks Chev made in 55-56 57 still great

things of beauty this is what is needed. :woot2:
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