In recent years, more women have become the primary buyers of new vehicles and auto makers are paying attention. While still a tiny minority in the automotive industry, women designers are increasingly taking the reins and companies are looking for new female talent.
Case in point is Wulin Gaowa, who was named the first female design director of a General Motors design studio. Wulin, who joined General Motors in September 2011, will head the GM China Advanced Studio. Her impressive experience in the auto industry includes stints at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Center in Germany and Italdesign Giugiaro in Italy.
In a Q and A, excerpted below, Wulin comments on the importance of finding local talent and designing for the world’s biggest auto market.
Q: How is it going with the hiring process? What kind of talents are you seeking to hire for the Advanced Design Studio?
A: We have found some qualified candidates here in China. We’re looking for people that have a passion and superior talent in the area of car design, and are willing to challenge the status quo. Hiring locally is important for us as the designers’ Chinese cultural background will help us better understand how to design mobile products that meet the needs of our customers in China. Overseas experience will be a plus and good support to achieve global standard. I’ve been visiting design universities and colleges all over China and the U.S. since I arrived in September, looking for designers who will fit into our organization. I’ve been to Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Detroit and Los Angeles so far.
Q: What influence will the new design center in China bring to GM’s future products for both China and other parts of the world?
A: The China market is playing a dominant role both in Asia and globally. As demand in China accounts for a bigger portion of GM’s global sales, our success in China is critical. We need to closely monitor and predict Chinese customers’ mobility behaviors, needs and preferences to ensure we are bringing the right products to the market. China’s vast geography means that many different mobility solutions are necessary, and it seems logical to think that inventions here could have appeal in other markets with similar customer needs and behaviors.
Read the entire Q and A here.