Ed Welburn, General Motors Co. design chief, and easily one of the most prominent car designers of our era, is retiring after 44 years with the company. He announced Thursday that he will retire July 1st, with Michael Simcoe, a 33-year old veteran who currently leads GM’s International Design Center, will take over and begin the transition May 1st.
GM CEO Mary Barra in a GM press release:
"GM Design is among the most respected and sought-after organizations in the industry because of Ed's leadership. He nurtured a creative, inclusive and customer-focused culture among our designers that has strengthened our global brands."
A GM lifer, Welburn started at the company in 1972 after graduating from Howard University; and elevated through the ranks to head up GM Design globally in 2005. His departure is a significant one because he was solely responsible for the overhaul of brands like Buick and Cadillac, and bringing back sporty cars like the Camaro, leading a styling Renaissance as the company emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy.
GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said in an email:
“Ed has managed to re-establish what made GM great in the ’60s: cars and trucks that just look right, inside and out. Ed’s reign will be remembered as marking the end of the dark era and the rebirth of GM as a design leader.”
In his early days, he designed some of the most iconic performance cars such as the Camaro, Cadillac Ciel, Corvette, the Buick Avista and many others. He also streamlined the 1987 Oldsmobile Aerotech concept with the world-speed record.
Welburn considers the Aerotech concept to be his most important because it was a close collaboration with both design and engineering departments. He supported this collaborative spirit under his tenure as the design chief of GM. During his tenure, Welburn set up a global network of 10 Design Centers with over 2,500 designers, working together on concept and production cars, trucks and utility vehicles.
Although Ed Welburn officially retires on July 1st, GM says that he will be working with the architect of its new Design Center facility on the campus of the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. He will also be working with the Smithsonian on an Edward T. Wellburn Collection of pieces documenting his career that will debut at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture building at the end of this year.
Ed Welburn’s successor, Simcoe, started in GM’s Australian Holden Unit and has worked on the Camaro, CTS, and more recently, the Buick Avenir concept that won the best concept car at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.