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Influential Black Figures in Automotive Culture | Black History Month

Words: STAFF

Photos: STAFF

We wanted to share a few infuential black figures in automotive culture, who helped shape the industry and the culture we love. These individuals have played an important role in the industry, shaping our world for the better. 


Ralph Gilles

As a highly influential figure in the automotive industry, Giles has made significant contributions to car culture in a number of ways. He’s an accomplished automotive designer, having played a key role in the design of some of the most popular cars of recent years. He joined Chrysler in 1992 as a designer, and quickly rose through the ranks to become the Senior Vice President of Design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the parent company of brands such as Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram. Some of the cars that Gilles has played a key role in designing include the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Challenger and Charger, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. These cars are highly regarded by car enthusiasts for their bold, aggressive styling and powerful performance.


In addition to his design work, Gilles is also a highly visible and vocal advocate for the automotive industry. He has given numerous interviews and speeches about the importance of design in the car industry, and has worked to promote the industry and its products to a wider audience. He has also been involved in a number of initiatives aimed at promoting innovation and creativity in the industry, such as the Chrysler Design Institute, which he founded in 2012.


Gilles has also been influential in promoting diversity and inclusion in the automotive industry. As a person of Haitian descent, he has been a vocal advocate for greater representation of people of color and other underrepresented groups in the industry. He has spoken out about the need for greater diversity among automotive designers and engineers, and has worked to create opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to get involved in the industry.

Ed Welburn   Welburn was the former Vice President of Global Design at General Motors, and has had an extensive career in automotive design. He’s also influenced car culture in a number of ways.  Welburn was one of the early adopters of digital design tools in the automotive industry, and he helped to popularize their use throughout the field. This has led to faster and more efficient design processes, which have helped to bring new vehicles to market more quickly.   He was also the first African-American to lead a global automotive design team, and he used his position to promote greater diversity and inclusivity in the industry. This has helped to broaden the perspectives and experiences represented in automotive design, leading to more innovative and varied vehicle designs.   His designs include some of the most iconic vehicles, including the Chevrolet Camaro, the Cadillac Escalade, and the Chevrolet Corvette. These vehicles have had a significant impact on car culture, and continue to be popular today.
Crystal Widham    This well-known automotive designer has made significant contributions to car culture over the years. She was involved in the design of several iconic vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Camaro, the Chevrolet Volt, and the Buick Avenir. Her designs have helped shape the look and feel of these vehicles, making them stand out and be recognized as some of the most popular and sought-after cars on the market.   Windham has been a trailblazer for women in the automotive industry, becoming the first woman to lead the design team for General Motors in 2018. Her contributions have brought a fresh perspective to car design and have helped to make the industry more inclusive and diverse.   She has also been at the forefront of innovation in car design, bringing new ideas and technologies to the industry. Her designs often incorporate features such as advanced lighting systems, new materials, and cutting-edge technology, making them some of the most advanced cars on the road. Her work will continue to shape the industry and influence future generations of car enthusiasts and designers.   So as the month-long celebration comes to end, let us not forget these influential automotive icons and continue to honor their legacy!  

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