Ed Welburn was named vice president, Global Design, in March 2005. Previously he was GM vice president, North America Design, since 2003, only the sixth Design leader in GM history. Welburn leads the company’s global design centers and is a member of the company’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT).
Welburn has created a network of 10 Design Centers in seven countries around the world. He and his team of 2,500 men and women are responsible for the design development of every GM concept and production car and truck globally. The Design Centers are located in the United States, Germany, Korea, China, Australia, Brazil and India.
Welburn joined General Motors in 1972 as an associate designer assigned to the Advanced Design Studios. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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:
The Automotive Hall of Fame
The Le May – America’s Car Museum
Detroit Historical Society
Multicultural Media Awards
African Americans on Wheels
In February 2015, Welburn made history when he was named Black Engineer of the Year at the 29th annual “Becoming Everything You Are” (BEYA) conference in Washington, D.C. This was the first time a GM employee took the top honor of one of the nation’s most prestigious diversity awards.
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.