by Robert Loszewski
© February 2013
No use without permission, All Rights Reserved
Corvette Action Center: Was there any one particular car, such as Porsche or Aston Martin that you held up in high regard in terms of interior quality and design?
Helen Emsley: For materials: Audi because of the use of materials and the quality. The Seats - the different seats - definitely Porsche. As for the interior, my designers will tell you different things. For me, I wanted to beat them all. I wanted to do a fantastic interior. So we did look at them all.
Of course, Porsche does very well in Europe, and we want to do very well in Europe. So, we of course, looked at Ferrari, Porsche, Audi; all of these vehicles. The goal was to be honest.
Corvette Action Center: Is there one single design element of the interior that you can say you're most proud of?
Helen Emsley: Yes, there is. The design of the cockpit, because we hadn't done anything like that for so long, and that buttress; you have to make that work because people are going to hold it so it's got to be sturdy.
When we did that sketch, Ed just absolutely loved it from the beginning, and everyone loved it when we built the model in the studio. Everybody that saw it was like, "oh my gosh, this is great!" Dan Akerson came in and said he wanted to see it in production. From the original sketch to what you see here, you would not see a difference.
We moved things a little bit because of air bags and things like that, but you will not see the difference. The actual design is there.
So I'm really proud of the fact that we found a way to bring that buttress all the way around on to the door without changing anything. We kept the original sketch. That to me was great. That was team work. From Engineering with Tadge, through to manufacturing, everybody came on board, and I've never see that before.
Often times, in design, we don't think about how it has to be built, but we got everybody; manufacturing, engineering, all to come into Design, and say we're going to do it. It was amazing how everybody worked together, and it was great to be part of that.
What I kept telling my team was, when you design something, you can design anything on paper, but when you've got to get that material to flow over that shape, remember what we're going to put over that shape. So I kept pushing them that way. Design it, so the material will work. Don't design it so that we've got to force it and then people question the quality. That was very important with my team.
We worked with Color & Trim. We worked with the Trim Shop. We worked with the seat suppliers, because we had to make these materials work. There's no point in designing something and then nobody can build it, or we have quality issues down the road. This is *the* top sports car and we have to have fantastic quality. That was the big goal for me.
Corvette Action Center: What was the most challenging aspect of the interior?
Helen Emsley: The most challenging aspect was the door to IP, because the way we designed it, and the materials coming through. If you take a look, there's literally four different materials and lines coming together. It's bad enough when you've got one, but when you're trying to match four lines, that is a challenge.
I never doubted my team, and I never doubted Engineering. As a matter of fact, I knew they could do it, but that was the challenge, because it was a risk. I knew we had the design. I knew we had it, but we just had to find a way to build it.
Jake Drennon: Looking ahead, have you set the benchmark now for General Motors' interiors because of this car? Has this car propelled the organization to say "all of our interiors have to be Audi quality"?
Helen Emsley: We're already doing that now. We're pushing on all of our interiors. We want to be the best. That's our goal. We want to be the best at interiors.
My team worked so hard. I joke all the time that it's not about me, or one individual. It's always about team. My team never let me down in anything I asked them to do.
Jake Drennon: Regarding that transition where you have to get four things mount up; you have to talk to suppliers...does that transition down to the factory?
Helen Emsley: We brought the factory guys into the studio. We brought them in early and usually, they're brought in at the end. We brought Dave and his guys in when we were designing that car. They were in the trenches with us. They helped us find a way to do that door to IP. It was unbelievable the way everyone worked together.
Jake Drennon: How much further did you have to go above and beyond Audi to make the interior the very best? 20%? 30%?
Helen Emsley: Cost-wise I don't know. I really don't, but I have to tell you, it was never questioned. When we went forward, we were not questioned [by Tadge and the team]. Everyone knew it was the right thing to do. It was unbelievable the way everyone rallied together. Everyone knew what we had to do and we found a way. It was never questioned.
After taking a close look at the exterior and interior design of the C7, we had a chance to sit down with Jordan Lee - Chief Engineer and Program Manager for GM's small block division, and talk about the engineering behind the C7 Corvette's Gen V, LT1 engine. Jordan began by explaining to us how the LT1 engine has very few carry-over parts from the C6 Corvette's powertrains.
Jordan Lee: The only carry through parts are the two bolts that hold the starter on, the piston pin, the piston pin circlips, the valve spring retainer, and the valve spring retainer keepers. All of those parts will fit in a little, tiny lunch baggie. Everything else is all new.