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Not much news but it does mention Solstice. Put link at bottom but it prompts you to register so I pasted the text instead.

GM's new design chief goes with gut, gauges crowd for inspiration

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.

Asked which vehicle was his favorite to develop at GM, Welburn quickly responds, "That's like naming your favorite children; each is rewarding."

But after a brief pause he said that the Aerotech, an experimental high-performance machine that established a world speed record of more than 257 mph in 1987 when driven by A.J. Foyt, topped his list.

"Usually a car is done by a team, but I did the entire body on the Aerotech," he said.

But, of course, even chief designers have to pay their dues and before Aerotech, there were the wheel covers and door handles and dashboards that required a stylist's touch.

"I always wanted to work on designing cars, and I'll never forget my first design assignment. You never start by designing the entire car yourself and my first assignment was designing the taillamp for the 1975 Pontiac Bonneville. I remember it like it was yesterday, doing the sketches and the mockup," he said.

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.

Looking ahead to what he hopes to accomplish as chief designer, Welburn said his task is simple.

"We need to keep intense pressure on everything, the inside and outside of cars and trucks and SUVs. One type of vehicle doesn't take priority over another. There's now a renewed emphasis on cars, but I keep telling the staff not to take their eye off of trucks," he said.

And while research into consumer likes and dislikes is important, Welburn said he agrees with Lutz's philosophy that sometimes you have to go with your gut when it comes to a design.

"Research is valuable, but you have to use your emotions, too," Welburn said.


Link:

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/business/national/8378055.htm
 

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It's just amazing to me that they finally got around to the conclusion that if you make a car attractive, people will want to buy it! Forty years ago car styling was the most important aspect of sales. Somehow they lost their way. It cost just as much to make an ugly car as it does a pretty one. It's about time they got back to thinking about the way cars look instead of how well they crash into brick walls or sip a gallon of gas.

To the new generation of designers and management that want to build great cars again!:cheers
 

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Have for years believed that every marque has an "ugly stylist" to make certain of two things:
1) Next years car will look better
2) Nothing but the most expensive model will look right.

This concept goes waaaay back. Consider the first Buick Riviera. The show car had concealed headlamps. 63 and 64 both had open headlights, 65 was the way they initially wanted it to look and then 66 restyled the whole thing.

Or the 68, 69, 70 Buick Skylarks (GM styling used to go in three year increments.) 70 GS was the best looking of all having finally lost the '54 Skylark side chrome. But just to make certin the GS sold, the regular 70 Skylark had really ugly grilles.

GTO/Tempest did the same thing: one look at the grilles or the taillights and you knew if TOL or stripper.

More recently the Fiero had its looks improved every year and when the 87 Grand Prix came out, one look at the bar between the grilles and you knew if interesting or not-so. Same-same when the 90 incarnation of the Bonneville came out, the low line had a one bar grille, the upscales, two bar and a gunsight. All plastic, no difference in cooling, just styling.

So somewhere out there is a whole team of stylists whose sole function is to take a nice end state design and ugly it up for the first years and to make lesser cars look cheaper than the TOL.

Probably very well paid too.
 

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Another note about styling; :rant Have you noticed how for the last two decades or so, most car companies seem to blow their budgets on front of the car and then when they get to the back they say "Oh, I don't know... Let accounting finish it!" It's usualy the cheapest easiest way out.
To me the back is almost as important as the front. The proof is in the advertising. If they do a crappy job on the backside, you'll never see it in ads or brochuers. Solstice doesn't have this problem. :cheers
 

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AeroDave said:
Another note about styling; :rant Have you noticed how for the last two decades or so, most car companies seem to blow their budgets on front of the car and then when they get to the back they say "Oh, I don't know... Let accounting finish it!" It's usualy the cheapest easiest way out.
To me the back is almost as important as the front. The proof is in the advertising. If they do a crappy job on the backside, you'll never see it in ads or brochuers. Solstice doesn't have this problem. :cheers
i **** you not, when i was a kid in the 80's, i posed the theory that Gm had one person design the front and one to design the rear and that one of them was a complete idiot.
 
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