Riding High: African-American Car Designers Behind Some Of The New Top Autos

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October 26, 2013 ‐ By Ann Brown

Have you ever thought about who designed the car you’re driving? While there aren’t very many African American car designers, there are some who have made a great impact on the industry. But the work of people like Earl Lucas, who played a role in the design of Ford Motor Co.’s 2010 Taurus, illustrates that something major is happening, reports Black Enterprise. Lucas’s design of the exterior body of the reborn Taurus received major accolades at the 2009 North American International Auto Show.

“It’s one thing to do a good-looking car,” Lucas told the magazine. “It’s another to do a car that’s iconic.”

And according to BE,  auto makers appear to be putting more black designers at the forefront of major design projects. Besides hard work and talent, Lucas points out, “African Americans really have a sense of style.”

Other black car designers include Edward Wellburn, General Motors Corp.’s vice president of global design — the highest-ranking position as an African American in the automotive industry. There’s also Crystal Windham, who handled the interior design of the acclaimed Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan and director of North American passenger car design for GM. And Michael Burton, GM director of exterior design for front-wheel-drive trucks and luxury crossovers, which are sport utility-style autos that ride like cars.

Burton, for example, was lead interior designer for the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. Meanwhile Ralph Gilles, Chrysler L.L.C.’s chief designer, gained fame for designing the bejeweled Chrysler 300C large sedan, a hit that was nicknamed the “Hip Hop Car” and caused automakers to ornate vehicles with chrome accent galore, reports BE.

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