General Motors design chief Ed Welburn will retire this Friday after 44 years at the company. Before he departs, Autocar UK caught up with him to talk about his inspirations and greatest achievements.
How did you start in design?
I went to the Philly auto show at age eight and saw the Cadillac Cyclone concept. Then at 11, I wrote to GM design and asked what qualifications I needed. I started in 1971 as an intern in advanced design.
Who was your main influence?
I have Bill Mitchell [GM design chief in the 1960s/1970s] to thank. He was a huge inspiration for me.
And your favourite design?
I love them all. But any Corvette, really. That’s a car any designer dreams of doing. When we started on the C7, I opened it up to every one of my designers all over the world. We had 1000s of sketches in. They did their day jobs and worked on the Corvette at night.
Your greatest achievement?
More than any single vehicle, the challenge of bringing all GM design under a global organisation. Getting the right balance between design and engineering was very, very important to me. And the design quality of our cars has improved.
What does it feel like leaving GM after 44 years?
I feel good about leaving at this point in time. And I’m going to be busy. I’ve set up a consultancy and will lead the creation of an all-new design centre at GM. But I won’t miss having to get up at 4.15am every morning.
GM dedicates its center for African-American art to Ed Welburn
Last year, General Motors, a long-time sponsor of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), honored Ed Welburn, vice- president of Global Design, in the rededication of the General Motors Center for African American Art. The Center’s goal is to enhance public knowledge of African-American contributions to the art community.
“Ed has built a legacy of design and artistic leadership in Detroit and the industry, and has recognized great talent and generously coached and mentored many young designers,” said chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “His creative imprint is on more than four decades of GM concept and production cars, trucks and crossovers.”
Welburn’s career has garnered him dozens of prestigious awards, and has distinguished him as the industry’s first African-American to lead a global design team. The citation to Welburn is particularly fitting for the DIA, which was the first major arts museum to create a center solely focused on the collection and work of African-American artists.
Source: Autocar UK