Former Jaguar design boss surfaces at General Motors

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Former Jaguar design boss Julian Thomson has been appointed director of a new GM Advanced Design Europe studio which will open in the Midlands at the end of this year.

He has been working under the radar on a feasibility study for the project since January and officially joined in July.

The move is part of GM CEO Mary Barra’s high-profile plan to return to European auto markets “in a meaningful way”, but doing so with GM’s current brands, after the sale of Opel and Vauxhall. at Stellantis in 2017.

The former world number one automaker left Europe saying it wanted to focus on more profitable truck sales, mainly in the United States, but has since decided it lacks influence European.

Although Thomson is based in the UK, he said the new studio, which will initially have a team of 35, will participate in all GM’s global projects and have the freedom to suggest new ones.

The creation of the studio was reportedly sponsored by Detroit-based GM global design vice president Mike Simcoe. He believes that as the group fully entrenches itself in EV markets, it needs more influence from Europe – arguably the most sophisticated EV market in the world.

The exact location of Thomson’s new studio has yet to be revealed, but he said he “wouldn’t need to be a genius” to predict a location close to many similar businesses in the Midlands.

The studio will open with a fairly small staff, Thomson said, as he takes time to hire the rest of the team. He wants a very disparate team and says he already has “a large number of candidates” and there are “a few that I worked with before I hunted”.

Since January, Thomson has been studying GM’s product line closely. He particularly admires recent developments at Cadillac (“The way it has changed its image is remarkable”) and highly appreciates the latest Chevrolet Corvette. “I would love to own one, and helping to design a Corvette would be a dream,” he said.

The GM Europe studio will not just work on “Europeanizing” existing models, Thomson said. Its mandate will be as broad as that of any other GM design center and it will have real-time contact with US, Korean and Chinese facilities.

“Mike Simcoe has made it clear that he wants us to be involved across GM’s global design network,” Thomson said. “We will be a kind of think tank, a contributor to everything that happens inside the mothership.”

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