GM’s Pioneering Design Chief Is Retiring This Summer

April 8, 2016, 5:10 PM UTC
Inside The New York Auto Show
Ed Welburn, vice president for global design General Motors Co. (GM), attends the 2013 New York International Auto Show in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, March 27, 2013. General Motors Co.?s new Cadillac CTS, the sedan that helped revive the luxury brand when it debuted more than a decade ago, will weigh less, go faster and be more fuel efficient as the company pushes to compete against Audi and BMW. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Jin Lee—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ed Welburn, the design chief of General Motors, will call an end to more than four decades with the Detroit automaker this July.

Welburn, 65, leaves behind a legacy of impressive work at GM (GM), breathing new creative life into cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and the Cadillac CTS. As the company’s vice president of global design, Welburn ran all 10 of GM’s design centers and sat on its executive-leadership team.

“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, in a press statement on Thursday.

He was also the highest-ranking African-American executive in the auto industry, and as our recent story detailed, became the company’s first black designer when he was hired in 1971. Subsequently, Welburn became the first black design chief in the auto industry, taking over in 2003.

At GM, he stamped his design imprint by imbuing classic brands with updated aesthetics, and became especially important as the company emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy. The Camaro, a classic muscle car that was discontinued in 2002, was redesigned and brought back to production in 2009 under Welburn. It promptly overtook its long-time rival, the Ford Mustang, in sales for 2010, and was named World Car Design of the Year.

The CTS has also been lauded for its sharp designs, and other cars under Welburn’s guiding hand include the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick models.

Welburn will be succeeded by Australian Michael Simcoe, who will become the first non-American design chief in the industry, said GM.