Now-retired General Motors Vice President of Global Design, Ed Welburn, built an empire within the automaker. Its design operations have become full scale across the globe, in which Welburn worked hard to tie each studio together to work more seamlessly than ever.
Now, it is newly-appointed GM design chief, Michael Simcoe‘s, job to continue enabling designers. However, Simcoe is not a Welburn 2.0. Not in the slightest.
Automotive News spoke with Simcoe and GM product chief Mark Reuss over how the Australian-born designer came to be the best-fit option for the job. In the end, Simcoe was deemed the “next step” in GM design, harboring an admiration for the technical and engineering side of things, not just a pretty picture.
“You might be leading design or engineering because you are an outstanding leader and you can get the best out of people,” Reuss said. “That’s important. But it is really unique to be really a good designer and be able to productionize a car design. That is a whole different thing than being a great sketch artist or a concept car designer. That’s a rare deal. And he’ll be able to do that really well. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
At a time when engineering and design must work more seamlessly than ever to ensure a fluid final product, Simcoe reiterated his love for not just a vehicle’s character.
“I love mechanisms. That’s the fascination behind motorbikes. I love the functional content of the car, the motor, the transmission. That’s just as fascinating to me as the character and proportion of the vehicle,” he said.
His love for skin-deep engineering is one of many reasons Reuss and GM CEO Mary Barra selected Simcoe; his design expertise (which includes the reborn Holden Monaro, fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro, Cadillac CTS and more) and fascination with including engineering with design made him the logical choice.
Simcoe said it best himself when he told Reuss before accepting the job he would not be an Ed Welburn.
“If you are looking for someone who’s like Ed, I’m not like Ed. I’m very different,” he told Reuss moments before accepting the position.
“I know you are not like Ed. This is not a repeat of Ed. You are not the same people. I’ve known you for 20-plus years. I know who you are and I know what you can do. That’s why I am asking you do to do the job because this is the next step for design.”