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GM’s Renaissance Design Chief Ed Welburn Retiring

Groundbreaking 44-year veteran credited with helping Detroit maker regain image of styling leadership.

by on Apr.07, 2016

GM design chief Ed Welburn unveiled the Buick Avenir at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

He got his inspiration at an early age, just 10 and visiting the Philadelphia Auto Show. There, Ed Welburn got a look at a 1961 General Motors concept car, the jet-like Cadillac Cyclone. He was hooked and dreamed of becoming an automotive designer.

As an African-American growing up in the years before the Civil Rights Act was passed, it might have seemed the impossible dream, yet Welburn broke through all sorts of barriers in a 44-year career that will come to an end on July 1st as he cedes the reins as GM’s global design chief to 33-year veteran Michael Simcoe.

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By Design!

Over the past decade, Welburn nurtured a creative, inclusive and customer-focused culture among our designers that has strengthened our global brands,” said GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

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GM Design Overseeing Restoration of Sinkhole Vettes

Specialty shop in design charged with handling the project.

by on Feb.13, 2014

A 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette Convertible in Ruby Red was one of the cars damaged by the sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum.

After 24 hours of uncertainty about the fate of the eight Corvettes swallowed up by a sinkhole under the National Corvette Museum, Chevrolet announced it will oversee the restoration of the vehicles.

Once the vehicles are retrieved from the hole, they will travel to Warren, Mich., where General Motors Design will take charge of the project. Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design, will oversee the restoration.

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“The vehicles at the National Corvette Museum are some of the most significant in automotive history,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president of General Motors Global Product Development. “There can only be one 1-millionth Corvette ever built. We want to ensure as many of the damaged cars are restored as possible so fans from around the world can enjoy them when the Museum reopens.” (more…)

Is Cadillac’s Elmiraj for Real This Time?

Coupe concept offers a hint of a future Caddy flagship.

by on Aug.16, 2013

Cadillac rolls out the Elmiraj Coupe Concept.

Ever since it rolled out the stunning Sixteen show car a decade ago, Cadillac has repeatedly offered hints of what an all-new flagship might look like with a procession of sedan and convertible concepts that most recently included the Ciel two years ago.

So what to make of the new Cadillac Elmiraj, another stunning exercise – this time in coupe form – that General Motors’ luxury division drove up to Tehama, the hilltop retreat of actor Clint Eastwood, last night? Is it the long-awaited flagship or just another el mirage?

What a Concept!

The long, lean coupe – which bore some of the long-nosed DNA of the old Cadillac Sixteen – certainly got people talking, precisely what a luxury brand’s premier model is supposed to do.  And, as the maker’s advanced chief Clay Dean later told TheDetroitBureau.com, “There’s nothing here we couldn’t do today.” But the question is one of “would,” not “could,” and the reality is that Cadillac still has not decided what its long-awaited flagship will be.  In fact, it still could be several different models.

The important thing, global design director Ed Welburn confided in us, “We have to move fast. The competition isn’t standing still.”

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Buick Unwraps New Riviera Concept

Shanghai show car “offers a preview of Buick’s future.”

by on Apr.19, 2013

Expect to see some key details from the Buick Riviera Concept, notably the new grille, reappear on future production models.

General Motors is offering a “preview of Buick’s future” with the new Riviera concept vehicle it is debuting at the Shanghai Auto Show.

The decision to reveal the futuristic coupe in China is a proverbial “no-brainer” considering that China is the GM brand’s largest market and, senior officials suggest, the key reason why Buick survived the 2009 GM bankruptcy.

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The sleek show car was, in fact, developed by PATAC, GM’s Shanghai technical center, and could very well portend the eventual return of the Buick Riviera nameplate, one of the most celebrated models in Buick’s 110-year history.

“The new Riviera offers a preview of Buick’s future design language,” suggested Shanghai GM President Ye Yongming.

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First Look: Cadillac Ciel Concept

“The hint of a fin,” as Cadillac goes forward into the past.

by on Aug.19, 2011

Cadillac reveals a show car that could serve up a hint of the brand's next flagship in the form of the four-door Ciel convertible.

“Retro” was definitely not a word Cadillac officials wanted to hear as they pulled the covers off the luxury division’s new Ciel Concept during a Thursday night preview.  But with what General Motors chief designer Ed Welburn described as a “hint of a fin,” the striking show car provides a vision of where Caddy might be going by touching on where it had been in a once-glorious past.

Long the leader of the luxury market, Cadillac now lags behind overseas rivals like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.  But it has begun regaining ground, in recent years, with a renewed focus on distinctive design.  And confident there’s an opportunity for growth, GM management has given Caddy the green light to add a variety of new models, including the ELR plug-in hybrid, approved just this week, as well as the small Cadillac ATS and larger XTS.

Breaking News!

But, “You need a flagship in your portfolio to be successful in the luxury market today,” asserted Clay Dean, the brand’s lead designer.  And the Ciel is a hint of what such a car might be.  Nearly as long as the big Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle, the prototype was shown in convertible form, but if taken into production would likely also be offered as a full-sized sedan, company insiders told TheDetroitBureau.com.

The name, Ciel, is French for “sky,” and carries something of a double meaning.  There’s the reference to the convertible design but it might also suggest that the sky is the limit, as far as GM is concerned, if Caddy can pull off a true turnaround.  That would likely depend on tapping into more than just the U.S. market – even though it is the largest luxury market in the world.  The Ciel, whether in convertible or hard top form, would also be targeted at China, now the largest overall automotive market on the planet – and a place where increasingly affluent buyers have shown a distinct predilection for cars that are large and lavishly equipped.

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GM Withdraws Request for $14 Billion in U.S. Loans

Maker also planning expanded roll-out of Chevy Volt.

by on Jan.27, 2011

GM is in much better shape, says design chief Welburn.

General Motors has withdrawn a request for $14.4 billion in low-interest loans it was seeking through the Department of Energy, proclaiming it has enough cash to fund the development of battery cars and other high-mileage models.

The news came on the same day the maker said it will speed up the roll-out of its highly-touted Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.  The original plan called for GM to provide about 10,000 Volts – recently voted North American Car of the Year – to dealers in select markets this year, then expand nationwide in 2012.  GM is now looking to boost production to 25,000 or more in 2011 and to get some of the battery-based vehicles to all its dealers before year’s end.

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“We’re confident of our progress and the strong global performance of our company,” GM’s global design director Ed Welburn said during an appearance at the Washington Auto Show.

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