GM Design Goes Worldwide

General Motors is encouraging designers from eleven studios around the world to share ideas and to collaborate on building the company’s brands.

“The market is so direct and so competitive that brands have to very distinctive,” noted Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design. Increasing the collaboration also means that GM can pick up on new trends faster and respond more quickly, Welburn said.

The cross-fertilization is already strengthening brands such as Buick, which is now benefiting from ideas from GM design studios inShanghai and Warren. GM now sells more Buicks in China than it does in the United States, but one of the reasons Chinese customers like Buicks is because of their distinctive American design, noted Welburn. The GM design studios in China and the U.S. have developed a close working relationship because of their collaboration on Buick projects.

GM’s design studios in South Korea are responsible for developing small cars and crossover vehicles for the Chevrolet brand. GM, however, is promoting Chevrolet as a global brand so studios are contributing to the development of the Chevrolet brand and its preferred cues, such as round taillamps, Welburn said.

“I think people are looking for creative expression. They’re looking for creative executions of design,” he said. “The regional differences are very important to me,” Welburn added. “But you have to have team that can work together and learn from each other,” he added.

Meanwhile, the GM studio in Brazil has shown a real knack for developing affordable vehicles, he noted. The lessons learned in Brazil, which has been given a large role in developing the next generation of GM small trucks, are being passed on to other GM studios in other parts of the globe.

2006 Holden Efijy conceptWelburn said GM plans to show off several concept vehicles developed in global studios during the North American International Auto Show, which will illustrate the impact of the global collaboration that is emerging as one of the hallmarks of the company’s design efforts. Vehicles such as the sleek, retro Holden Efijy, the Chevrolet T2X, and the Chevrolet WTCC, which have been heavily influenced by studios in Asia, and the Opel Antara, will be on display.

Welburn also said while cost-cutting has been the order of the day at GM for more than two years now, design is one area that’s escaped the knife. GM is adding personnel at all eleven of its design centers around the world, including the North American design center in Warren , he said.

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