DETROIT -- Helen Emsley remembers the anxiety she felt six years ago when asked to lead the interior design for the 2014 Corvette Stingray.
"I can just imagine the press headlines," Emsley recalls telling her boss, General Motors global design chief Ed Welburn: "British woman kills Corvette."
Far from spoiling the sports car, the interior that Emsley's team executed won plaudits as the first Corvette cabin worthy of being paired with what's under the hood. When GM swept both the North American car and truck of the year awards this month with the Corvette and the '14 Silverado, Emsley was aglow. She oversaw the much-praised Silverado interior, too.
Emsley, 49, was an unlikely choice to work on two quintessentially American, male-oriented vehicles. She grew up in a village near Yorkshire, England, dotted with coal mines and woolen mills. She hadn't lived in the United States until her early 30s. She was a color-and-trim specialist who had never spent time in a vehicle design studio before the Corvette assignment.