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Holden design vital to GM globally: Welburn
GM design boss praises Australian talent and know-how
12 Mar 2012
By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in Geneva
GENERAL MOTORS design chief Ed Welburn has reiterated the importance of the Holden Design team on the company’s global stage, in respect to the styling of many current products as well as upcoming vehicles.
Speaking to GoAuto at the Geneva motor show last week, Mr Welburn said both the team at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne provide invaluable assistance in creating the look of many of its products globally, not just those badged as Holdens.
Mr Welburn was speaking immediately after the European reveal of the Cadillac ATS, the company’s new US-made BMW 3 Series sedan rival that was overseen by Australian Holden designer Mike Simcoe during its development in Detroit.
The American design veteran singled out proportion and stance as particular Holden attributes that find their way onto a large number of GM vehicles around the world.
“Holden design is a kingpin within our organisation,” said Mr Welburn.
“It’s an organisation that works in collaboration quite a bit. Holden designers have contributed to a number of our designs.
“We move them around – certainly people like Mike Simcoe (now executive director of General Motors International Operations Design) have spent a number of years in Detroit, and is much involved in this (Cadillac ATS) design.
“I’d say that one of the real strengths of the team in Australia is really creating the foundations of a vehicle, developing their proportions.
Left: GM vice-president of design Ed Welburn (top) and GM International Operations Design executive director Mike Simcoe.
“Holden’s people create lovely proportions, wonderful proportions, and having Mike on the team developing this car – and Andrew Smith as well – was a real advantage. And they will continue to be a very important part of our global design machine.
“(Melbourne) is the homeroom for the Holden brand, and so their assignment is to do all the right things for the future of the Holden brand and developing new vehicles.
“But, in addition to that, I call on them to be involved in the design themes of many other vehicles in many other markets around the world. They’ve done some wonderful design themes for the Buick brand, for the Chevrolet brand.
“For a team that has spent decades designing Holdens, the team is very flexible I ask them to do some Buick work and they jumped right in and have done some really wonderful work.”
The ATS – which is rear-wheel drive and also all-wheel drive – is seen by some observers as Cadillac’s best chance to finally achieve meaningful sales volumes in the notoriously tough European luxury car market.
Asked if it was stylistically or proportionally connected or inspired by the Holden TT36 Torana concept car that stole the 2004 Sydney motor show, Mr Welburn said that, while there are similarities, the ATS was designed in isolation of the Australian car.
“Yes, it’s very much the same size and proportion,” he said. “We did not use that as the benchmark for our work, but they are very much the same size.
“But that is absolutely right – they do appear to be very close cousins.”
While Holden also created the look of the recently released Cruze hatch, Mr Welburn revealed that the majority of the styling for the wagon version that premiered in Geneva was carried out in Korea.
Mr Simcoe said that, while the Fishermans Bend team only contributed some styling suggestions early in the Cruze wagon development, it stands as an example of how GM design works globally.
“Australia did some of the original theming work on (Cruze wagon), but the execution and engineering was done in Korea,” said Mr Simcoe.
“But that is really a good example of how things are done now. The homeroom for engineering and design might sit in one region, but all of the other regions provide design themings or innovative solutions back to that group.
“It’s essentially a hybrid mentality if you like – there are designers in Australia, there are designers in Korea, or in China, or in North America, all working on the theming or generations of a product.”
Mr Welburn was cryptic when asked whether Holden Design will be responsible for any of the next-generation Cruze models due from about 2014.
“We’re still developing that,” he said. “You could look at any number of our current GM cars and we’re working on the next-generation version. And the Cruze is no exception.
“I think the next-generation of Cruze will be as strong, if not stronger.”
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