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Who's Where: Sangyup Lee to join VW Advanced Design

Thu, 24 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0800

Sangyup Lee, designer of the acclaimed Chevrolet Camaro, has recently resigned from General Motors to accept a position as Chief Designer of Exterior at the Volkswagen/Audi Advanced studio in California. Lee is scheduled to begin work mid-January 2010, reporting to Jens Manske who was appointed  Executive Director earlier this year. His role is to inspire a newly merged Volkswagen and Audi design staff in the Santa Monica studio. 

Mr. Lee resigned after 10 years at General Motors. In addition to working in the headquarters at Warren, MI, Lee's tenure included several international assignments: the Camaro production program for Holden, Australia; a joint venture program for Subaru and GM in Japan; and a project between Bertone and GM in Italy where he developed the 2004 Buick Velite Concept car. The latter project established the brand aesthetics of current Buick products.

In early 2005, GM Design held a company wide competition to determine the direction of the Camaro brand. This included the advanced studios in the UK, Australia, Europe, Michigan and California. Tom Peters, Director of Design, was tasked to create a counter proposal, and this is when Studio X was created, and nick-named 'the skunk works'. Peters assigned Lee to the Lead Designer position in this secluded, anti-corporate but vibrant and creative environment.  

Lee explained how he and his team entered the competition to design the new Camaro later than the rest of GM design staff: "We had only two months to develop a full-size clay model out of my sketches, and those done by Vladimir Kapitonov and Steve Kim". In the final presentation to Bob Lutz and Ed Welburn, the decision was made to accept the Studio X proposal.

After the Camaro Concept debuted at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show, the car was so well received by the public that Rick Wagoner asked for the car to go into production as quickly as possible. The car was originally based on the Zeta platform, which was developed by Holden.

As Design Manager, Lee was asked to develop the production exterior in Australia over the next year and a half. He gives high praise and credit to the Holden Engineering and Design Team for the success of the program.

Lee is also the exterior designer of the 50th Anniversary Stingray concept, a project that actually started before the Camaro and while Lee had been working on the C6 Corvette.

Before devlving into car design, Lee earned a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art at Hongik University, where he studied sculpture. He later attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and graduated with honors in 1999. While at Art Center, he had internships at Porsche and Pininfarina, and worked as a contractor at Porsche for approximately six months upon graduation.

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Interview: Ed Welburn, GM Vice President of Global Design

By Bill Barranco