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Holden is a GM design leader

Branching out: The Chevrolet Orlando is an example of Holden's international links, says GM's Michael Simcoe.

Fishermans Bend is a GM Design benchmark and a global backbone, says Simcoe

7 Dec 2009


GENERAL Motors executive director of North American exterior design Michael Simcoe claims that Holden’s design centre at its Fishermans Bend headquarters in Melbourne is one of the most secure of all of the company’s global design centres, as well as one of the most mature.

The Australian former Holden design director also said that not much had changed within his jurisdiction in the wake of GM’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganisation period in June.

Mr Simcoe, who started his career at Fishermans Bend, confirmed that the Australian arm of GM had the leading role within the Asia-Pacific region, liaising and looking after other styling centres in Korea, India and China.

It also works closely with the entire global GM design network, as evidenced earlier this year by the Chevrolet Orlando compact people mover – a global GM show car created by Holden in Melbourne and shown for the first time at the Paris motor show in 2008.

“Holden’s design role within Asia-Pacific is really as the most secure group down there,” Mr Simcoe told GoAuto this month’s LA Auto Show in California.

 center imageLeft: GM executive director of design Mike Simcoe.

“Korea has an amazing ability with interiors, and they’re developing serious skills to be able to do an amazing job – (such as) the Chevy Spark (new-generation Daewoo Matiz) and the (upcoming) Chevy Aveo as well (GM’s 2011 light-car replacement for the current TK Barina).

“The GM guys in China – they’re still working with the joint venture up there (with China’s giant SAIC automobile conglomerate) … and that’s still going to work.

“Australia is supporting India as well – there’ s a studio in India that the Australian guys have had a relationship with.

“So it’s a really nice centre of mature creativity.” Mr Simcoe added that Holden design had been one of the leading proponents the global GM design for a number of years.

“(Holden design) has actually been doing it for a really long time,” he said.

“And now that they have gotten past having to only work on the single architecture – the current Commodore’s (Zeta) architecture down there – they’ve been doing a more global job, working in things like Cruze, and they do team work or concepts for any number of projects that are happening around the world.” Mr Simcoe said Holden’s design department was a great ready-made pool of professionals for GM to globally draw on.

“It’s no longer single studios doing single projects for their own markets,” he said.

“Holden has that role, but it has its global role as well.” Meanwhile, Mr Simcoe said it was business as usual for GM Design after the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“I won’t say that we are immune to the change, because in the refit we lost some people,” he said.

“But the reality is we have not been hit as hard as some other departments because we already had the global thing working really, really well.

“We’re already all pretty tight, and really, if you shut down design then you shut off your future.

“And there was a really good recognition that you can’t just wipe off the legs from the bottom of design and hope to have new product coming through.

“But saying all that, all the stuff that is coming through now was already been done before any change of heart at the company.” Mr Simcoe said that it would take at least another two years before the public got a glimpse of GM’s post-bankruptcy designs.

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