Ed Welburn, General Motors' Chief Designer and one of the key people around the recent revitalization of GM's design has announced he will retire from the company on July 1st. Taking his place as chief designer will be Michael Simcoe who currently heads GM International Design.
Welburn is GM's sixth design chief in GM's 108-year-history, following in the footsteps of people Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell. Welburn also holds the distinction of being the first African American to lead design for an automaker.
Welburn's story of becoming the head of GM design starts in the early sixties when he saw the Cadillac Cyclone Motorama concept at an auto show and writing to GM about careers in design. He would join GM as a design intern in 1971 before becoming an employee in Buick's design studio a couple years later.
Welburn would move to Oldsmobile in 1975 and become its chief designer in 1989, working on such projects as the Cutlass Supreme and Cutlass Ciera. In 1996, he became the chief designer for Saturn and then head of GM's advanced design center. Welburn would be named head of GM design in 2003. Two years later, a new position was created for him that would have him oversee GM's global 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 in a statement.
The list of vehicles Welburn played a role in is quite long. Some of the most recent vehicles include the Corvette Stingray, Chevrolet Volt, Buick Avista concept, Cadillac El Miraj, and 2016 Chevrolet Camaro. But one vehicle Welburn says is the most important to him was the Oldsmobile Aerotech, an experimental vehicle from the mid-eighties that would earn two world speed records.
"That was a big part of my development as a leader. Because for the first time, I wasn't just sketching. I was working with engineers, with marketing. I was working all day in the studios and all night in the wind tunnel. That was the project that I really learned design cannot be an island," Welburn told Automotive News earlier this month.
Michael Simcoe joined General Motors in 1983 as a designer for Holden. In 1995, Simcoe was named director of Design for GM Asia Pacific and then executive director of Asia Pacific Design in 2003. A year later, Simcoe would be named executive director of North American Exterior Design. Simcoe's achievements include leading the team behind the Avenir concept.
Source: General Motors
Press Release is on Page 2
GM Design Chief Ed Welburn To Retire July 1
- Michael Simcoe named new vice president, GM Global Design
WARREN, Mich. – Ed Welburn, vice president of General Motors Global Design, told employees today he will retire effective July 1, following a 44-year career with the company.
Michael Simcoe, a 33-year veteran of GM Design and vice president of GM International Design, based in Australia and Korea, has been selected to succeed Welburn. He will be the company’s seventh design leader and begins transitioning into his new role on May 1. His replacement has not been named.
Welburn, 65, has been celebrated inside and outside the industry for his extraordinary achievements. He has led GM Design since 2003, and globally since 2005, the first African American from any automaker to do so.
“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.
Under Welburn’s leadership, GM built a network of 10 GM design centers in seven countries. His team of more than 2,500 creative men and women – based in the U.S., Germany, South Korea, China, Australia, Brazil and India – collaborate on the design development of every GM concept and production car, truck and crossover globally.
Mark Reuss, executive vice president, Global Product Development and Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, announced Simcoe’s promotion and commended Welburn.
“Given his deep global experience and passion for breakthrough design, Michael is the right person to lead GM Global Design,” said Reuss. “He is known for his ability to take diverse ideas and mold them into great products that surprise and delight our customers.”
Reuss recognized Welburn for his creative imprint on four decades of iconic vehicles and his leadership in identifying and developing world-class talent.
“Ed’s team turns out one award-winning product after another … and his strong bench will keep GM Design on top for years to come,” Reuss said.
Simcoe has been in his current role since 2014, overseeing GM’s production and advanced studios in Korea, Australia, and India. He is known for applying global design excellence and creativity to the company’s distinct brands.
He joined GM in 1983 as a designer at Holden in Australia, and is Holden’s brand champion. In 1995, he became director of Design for GM Asia Pacific and in 2003, was named executive director of Asia Pacific Design and led the development of the new GM Korea design operations under Welburn’s leadership.
The following year, he became executive director of North American Exterior Design, responsible for critical and commercial successes like the GMC Terrain, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox and Cadillac CTS.
More recently, he led the team responsible for the award-winning Buick Avenir Concept. Last month, he introduced the Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier show cars at the Bangkok International Motor Show.