There Aren't Many Jobs in the Automobile Industry More Important Than Being The

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

There Aren't Many Jobs in the Automobile Industry More Important Than Being The


Byline: Tom Jensen Wheelbase Media

There aren't many jobs in the automobile industry more important than being the design leader at General Motors. So when there's a change at the top, it counts as big news.

On June 23, 1927, GM's executive committee approved the hiring of Hollywood coachbuilder Harley Earl to head the automaker's new design department. Since then, only five other men have succeeded Earl: William "Bill" Mitchell (1958-'77), Irving Rybicki (1977-'86), Charles Jordan (1986-'92), Wayne Cherry (1992-'03) and Ed Welburn (2003-present).

Welburn is 65 and carries the title of vice president of General Motors Global Design. He will retire July 1 after 44 years with the company. Welburn will be succeeded by Michael Simcoe, a 33-year veteran of GM Design, who now serves as vice president of GM International Design, based in Australia and Korea.

Welburn is held in high regard in the industry and is the first African-American design leader at any automaker. The Philadelphia native has led GM Design since 2003, and globally since 2005.

GM now has a network of 10 design centers in seven countries, with more than 2,500 employees in the U.S., Germany, South Korea, China, Australia, Brazil and India, all engaged in design.

"GM Design is among the most respected and sought-after organizations in the industry because of Ed's leadership. He nurtured a creative, inclusive and customer-focused culture among our designers that has strengthened our global brands," said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.

With Welburn about to step down, here are half a dozen of the best and most interesting cars he designed over his career.

Chevrolet Camaro

Welburn brought the Camaro back from the dead as a 2010 model; it had been dropped after the 2002 model year. The high beltline and low roof of the Camaro made it a controversial car, but Welburn fought hard -- and won -- to keep the proportions exactly the way he wanted. The fifth-generation Camaro was a big success story and the new-for-2016 Gen 6 model improves on the original. …

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