GM Taps Lotus Elise Designer To Make Beautiful Cars For Europe

Design / 3 Comments

GM wants to sell more cars across the pond, and to do that, it needs a European designer.

General Motors sold Opel and Vauxhall to Stellantis in 2017, leaving it without a volume brand in Europe. Sure, Chevrolet tried, but it was a halfhearted attempt and was eventually given up on. But GM hopes to rectify the situation by building an all-new GM Advanced Design Studio as it seeks to re-enter the tough-to-crack Euro market.

The Europeans don't have the same appreciation for large cars or pickups, so GM is currently missing out on the third-largest automotive market in the world. Of all Chevrolet's vehicles, only one is sold in the UK. And it's the Corvette Stingray. The C8 is the first official right-hand drive Corvette ever, in case you were wondering.

The Corvette is a great car but hardly a volume model. GM desperately needs vehicles that appeal to the Europeans, and it has now hired Julian Thomson to serve as the design boss at its fancy new studio.

Jaguar Land Rover

Thomson has an impressive resume. He was chosen to lead Jaguar's design team after the famous Ian Callum retired, but left after less than two years. At the time, Thomson said he would pursue new opportunities but dropped off the radar.

His most famous projects include the Jaguar F-Type facelift and first-generation Lotus Elise.

According to an interview with Autocar, Thomson has been working on a feasibility study for GM's new studio since January 2022 and officially joined after GM gave the go-ahead. Thomson will be in charge of opening the studio and overseeing a staff of 35. It will grow over time, but Thomson will take his time to select new recruits.

"There are a few I've worked with before that I'm chasing," said Thomson.

Mark Fagelson Photography Lotus

The new design studio is being erected with the blessing of GM's vice-president of global design, Mike Simcoe. According to Simcoe, the group needs more influence from Europe as it's moving into the EV market. GM's charge back into Europe will be led by the Cadillac and Chevrolet brands. The Lyriq, Blazer, and Equinox EVs will likely do well across the pond, but there will be little interest in the Silverado EV.

GM's scalable Ultium EV skateboard and technology will make it easier than ever before to build a model specifically aimed at Europe. We'll use the Lyriq as an example. For the UK market, GM needs to ditch the chrome wheels, possibly reduce the size of the faux grille, and fit smaller cupholders. Instant winner.


Having studied the GM range since January, Thomson already has a favorite. It should come as no surprise that it's the Corvette. "I'd love to own one, and being involved in designing a Corvette would be a dream," said Thomson. Chevrolet has been accused of copying Ferrari's homework with a mid-engined Corvette, but we feel the model could stand to benefit from a little more European influence in further iterations.

Outside of Chevrolet, Thomson admits that he also admires Cadillac's current design direction.

Thomson will not work in isolation on European-only models. "Mike Simcoe has made it clear that he wants us involved in the whole global network of GM design," said Thomson. "We will be a kind of think-tank, a contributor to everything that goes on inside the mothership."

Source Credits: Autocar

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