GM Design Chief Ed Welburn retires

Automotive Design 8 Apr 2016
GM Design Chief Ed Welburn retires

Ed Welburn, vice president of General Motors Global Design, has announced he will retire effective July 1, following a 44-year career with the company.


Welburn will be succeded by Michael Simcoe, a 33-year veteran of GM Design and vice president of GM International Design, based in Australia and Korea.

Simcoe will be the company’s seventh design leader and begins transitioning into his new role on May 1. His replacement has not been named.

Ed Welburn and Michael Simcoe

Welburn has led GM Design since 2003, and globally since 2005, the first African American from any automaker to do so.

Under Welburn’s leadership, GM built a network of 10 GM design centers in seven countries. His team of more than 2,500 creative men and women – based in the U.S., Germany, South Korea, China, Australia, Brazil and India – collaborate on the design development of every GM concept and production car, truck and crossover globally.

Ed Welburn and the Buick Avista Concept at NAIAS 2016

About Ed Welburn

Ed Welburn joined General Motors in 1972 as an associate designer assigned to the Advanced Design Studios.

1976 Buick AE Clay Model in studio

In 1975, he was assigned to the Oldsmobile Exterior Studio. There he led the development of a number of successful production vehicles and designed the Oldsmobile Aerotech speed-record vehicle in the mid-1980s, which set several world records.

1987 Oldsmobile Aerotech Concept

He was named chief designer of the Oldsmobile Studio in 1989 before beginning a two-year assignment at Saturn in 1996, which led to an overseas assignment in Germany, where he worked on future global design programs.

1998 - Ed Welburn appointed Exec Director of Advanced Design

Welburn was named director of GM’s Advanced Design organization in 1998. His team was responsible for the development of new and innovative vehicles for all GM brands, including a new generation of hydrogen fuel cell concepts.

2002 - Ed Welburn is appointed Exec Director of Design of Body-on-Frame

He was then appointed executive director of design, body-on-frame architectures, in 2002. In this position, he was responsible for the three truck studios at the GM Design Center in Warren.

2002 - Ed Welburn is appointed Exec Director of Design of Body-on-Frame

Welburn’s passion for car design began at an early age in his hometown of Philadelphia. He was initially influenced by vehicles such as the Cadillac Cyclone concept and Chevrolet Corvettes during the late 1950s. At age 11, he wrote a letter to GM saying he wanted to be a car designer. The company wrote back, and recommended the steps he needed to take to achieve his dream.

Welburn has received honors and special recognition from numerous organizations, including:

  • Rainbow PUSH
  • The Automotive Hall of Fame
    Howard University
  • Ebony
  • Black Enterprise
  • The Le May – America’s Car Museum
  • Detroit Historical Society
  • Trumpet Awards
  • Multicultural Media Awards
  • African Americans on Wheels
  • Michigan Chronicle

Welburn is a board member of the GM Foundation, and serves on the board of trustees at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Mich. He received a bachelor’s degree from the College of Fine Arts at Howard University, where he studied sculpture and product design.

About Michael Simcoe

Simcoe has been in his current role since 2014, overseeing GM’s production and advanced studios in Korea, Australia and India. He is known for applying global design excellence and creativity to the company’s distinct brands.

He joined GM in 1983 as a designer at Holden in Australia, and is Holden’s brand champion. In 1995, he became director of Design for GM Asia Pacific and in 2003, was named executive director of Asia Pacific Design and led the development of the new GM Korea design operations under Welburn’s leadership.

The following year, he became executive director of North American Exterior Design, responsible for critical and commercial successes like the GMC Terrain, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox and Cadillac CTS.

More recently, he led the team responsible for the award-winning Buick Avenir Concept. Last month, he introduced the Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier show cars at the Bangkok International Motor Show.

Official statements

“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,€ said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.

Mark Reuss, executive vice president, Global Product Development and Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, announced Simcoe’s promotion and commended Welburn.

“Given his deep global experience and passion for breakthrough design, Michael is the right person to lead GM Global Design,€ said Reuss. “He is known for his ability to take diverse ideas and mold them into great products that surprise and delight our customers.€

Reuss recognized Welburn for his creative imprint on four decades of iconic vehicles and his leadership in identifying and developing world-class talent.

“Ed’s team turns out one award-winning product after another €¦ and his strong bench will keep GM Design on top for years to come,€ Reuss said.

(Source: General Motors)

Image Gallery

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GM Design Chief Ed Welburn retires - Image 1
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