|Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.|
MONTEREY, Calif. -- About four years ago, when General Motors designers were just starting on the seventh-generation Corvette, Ed Welburn had something of an epiphany while watching his local news.
GM's global head of design happened to catch a segment on a Corvette club gathering at a local Chevrolet dealership. He doesn't recall what the story was about. But one detail stood out: All of the club members had white hair.
"That's what really did it for me," Welburn told me this week while riding shotgun as I drove the 2014 Corvette Stingray through barren coastal mountains during Chevy's media test drive here. "I knew that we had to do something that appeals to younger buyers and to more international buyers."
That partly inspired Welburn to conduct an unprecedented global call for proposals from GM designers scattered across studios from Brazil to India to Korea.
Welburn, 62, figured that by casting such a wide net, he was more likely to end up with the exotic design he was after.
Plus, Welburn figured it would be a good morale builder, which it was. During a recent visit to GM's design studio in Brazil, he noticed one designer's discarded 'Vette sketch still tacked proudly over his desk.
Welburn personally reviewed the hundreds of sketches that flowed into GM's global design center in suburban Detroit. Eventually, the list of candidates was whittled down to 12 scale models, and eventually to two full-sized clay models.
Then it was gut-check time. One of the finalists included the traditional round taillights; the other had a more provocative look, with squared-off taillights.
Welburn concedes that he initially was opposed to discarding the round lights that had been a signature styling cue on every 'Vette since 1963. But then he remembered the snowy-haired Corvette clubbers.
"That image was just etched into my mind," Welburn says.
So squared taillights it is, anchoring a 'Vette design that looks even more angular and fighter jet-esque when seen in the wild. With Stingrays hitting dealerships by early October, we'll see if Welburn's epiphany pays off.