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GM’s Clay Dean on large American luxury

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Dec 2, 2013

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


The 2014 Cadillac ELR was designed under Clay Dean\'s leadership (Jordan Strauss/Invision for GM)

By John Grafman Clay Dean, Design Director for Global Advance Design for General Motors, is fired up on GM design, as he should be. Having seen the ups and downs at GM, including the rise and fall of Hummer, Clay is looking to the future of Cadillac with the Elmiraj concept, and what it takes to have Large American Luxury. One - Cadillac is now showing a broad variety of products. Clay reveals a little of GM’s approach, “Every car has its mission as to what it needs to do. Two statements or stories that are extremely relevant to Cadillac, the ELR and the Elmiraj, which are two very different sizes, two very different strategies of how you try to address the luxury market. The key: ”Do you know who you’re talking to”? Mr. Dean adds, “There’s no value of doing a concept vehicle if it doesn’t add to the value of the company.” Two - “Today you got so much information available. I’ll spend at least an hour of my day just trying to capture what’s evolving in technology in the automotive world, just to understand that our bets are in the right places in the things that we’re studying”, states Dean.


Cadillac Elmiraj design team (from left) – Clay Dean, director, GM Global Advanced Design; Niki Smart, Exterior Design Manager; Frank Saucedo, director, GM Advanced Design California; Gael Buzyn, Interior Design Manager.

Three - With competitors always close behind, how to show forward-looking concepts or near term prototypes that indicate a design direction without showing your hand becomes challenging. Nevertheless, Clay Dean divulges, “I don’t want to give anything away, so on a vehicle like the Elmiraj it’s a very strategic concept. So, for us there’s going to be an entry that’s going to be emerging here soon, a new product that’s a new platform, a new architecture, that’s speaking about something, and we knew that was going to be coming.” This seems to be a little hint as to what we will be seeing down the road. Four - Unlike in days gone by, GM now has a strong, tactical side in displaying design concepts. As Clay mentions, “I would probably say that just about every company here (at the LA Auto Show) probably does the same thing. They have a key core strategy about why they concepts. You don’t see as many concepts today from anybody that we used to see in the past. They take a lot of time; you’ll spend a lot of money. You will spend seriously in terms of pursuing the idea. Now, you can do anything fast, you can do crazy fast things, but you’ll spend lots of overtime and lots on quality. A concept car like an Elmiraj is eighteen months of focused work with a team, and you will spend anywhere from two to three million dollars to build that car. It has immense value if you know exactly what it is you’re trying to do with it”! Five - “Will Cadillac be the technology leader for GM? It wants to be. Will Chevy be the value leader for General Motors? It should be, because that’s kind of its place. So, every brand should have its reason for being. Does every new technology need to debut with Cadillac first? I don’t think so. But I think the key ones that are important should.” Clay continues, “Because it embellishes the brands, it helps you to burnish what the brands are about. And, sometimes these new technologies are expensive. It helps you in a luxury car world up until you get a scale, before you can really get it out there, doing it in a luxury environment is probably a smart play.”


GM design chief Ed Welburn and Clay Dean introduce the Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept

While Chevrolet took the lead on GM’s extended range electric vehicle technology, Cadillac won’t be taking a back seat in the future in either technology, or design. At least if Clay Dean has anything to say about it. Article provide by AutoDesignO for LA Car Also read LA Car’s Design Takes the Lead Again – An interview with GM’s Ed Welburn Designs under the vision of GM Director for Global Advance Design Clay Dean:

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