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Old 04-02-2013, 11:20 AM   #1
Mr. Wyndham
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Lightbulb Camaro5 NYIAS Interview Series (3/7): Helen Emsley on Camaro Interior

Featured on Camaro5 HOMEPAGE

Interview 3/7...Feel free to ask any questions - and I may be able to elaborate.

I'd like to take an opportunity and point out, for folks that don't know who Helen is...she has a phenomenal understanding of her products. And she's so passionate about doing good interiors!! Her team inherited the initial Camaro interior - and the resulting changes were made.

For reference...the entire C7 Corvette interior was Helen and her team. So - IMHO, expect more good things about of GM's performance cars and trucks thanks to her direction.

Also, during this interview, Helen brought me over to the Z/28 to have a seat in the new Recaro seats...they are VERY comfortable. I have to make a comparison...I've sat in two different Recaro seats thus far...the Cadillac CTS-V, and the '13 GT500. These are much better than the Mustangs, and right on par with the Cadillac, in my opinion. They are FAR and away more comfortable than the GT500s...more supportive, too. And I'd say that they're slightly more supportive than the CTS-Vs, however they don't have as many power features.

Interview with Helen Emsley, Director of Interior Design for Performance Cars
by J. Bella,

Obviously, Corvette just came out – and it’s gorgeous inside. Did you go into that thinking “we have to start over”, were there limitations, or was it a free-for-all?

When we started the new Corvette design, there was no limitations – we could do what we wanted. We had to, of course, fit in the car – but no one said “it has to have this”, or that we had to keep to anything. It was just “you guys design something that you think it’s the most appropriate Corvette interior”.

Will that approach you took with Corvette trickle down to other cars? Like Camaro?

That process is across all our vehicles. Definitely, I know, all the ones I’m in charge of. I’m in charge of performance and full-sized trucks. So, you just do the correct interior that’s appropriate, and that the customer wants.

What is your opinion of the current Camaro’s interior? Would you call that appropriate for the car?

Well, when I came on to the performance cars, we had today’s interior – which everybody loved. You know, it’s what was in the show car, and it was right for when we launched the car. But more emphasis now has become on interiors. People expect more in the materials, more craftsmanship in the touch.

We got a lot of criticism for the Camaro’s all plastic, one-piece IP. So we straight-away went to work on the insert for that, so we could put soft-touch materials in there, like leather or suede. We also put the detailing around the vents so they weren’t floating in the plastic. These were the finishing, craftsmanship details we knew we needed to work on.

We needed to do something for the car, and that’s why we actually worked on the 2012 cars before today’s refresh, which is mostly exterior. We knew we had to do something to the car.

The Corvette has an exceptionally driver-focused interior. Is that a “performance” design, or a “Corvette” thing?

It was a Corvette thing. The Corvette and Camaro are very different, and we’re trying so hard to keep them separate. For one thing, the Corvette is a 2-seater, and the Camaro is a 4-seater. We really wanted to have the Corvette be driver-focused, and like a jet-fighter cockpit that wraps around you. The Camaro, we tried to make that a wide-open feeling. It’s a sports car, but we wanted a wide IP.

Where there any changes to the interior to accompany this 2014 refresh?

There were a few changes. We added the seats, and the colored HUD & Driver Information Center.

But what happened was we did the changes we needed to do earlier, we did them in 2012. Because, if we’d have waited, it would have been the wrong thing to do. So we actually decided to do many of the interior changes before this facelift.

We like to tell our forum members that “GM is listening”, and that eventually comments posted online will make it to designers and engineers. Are you noticing anything that people are still commenting on?

It’s very interesting, a lot of the feedback we get is that they love the interior as it is now. The Camaro drivers love their car, so we get good feedback. The feedback we got before was about the hard IP, so we did something about it as quickly as we could. Of course as we work on it in the future, we’ll listen to that input again.

So, yes, I would say any feedback we will listen to. And I think it’s very important because these people drive those cars. They drive them a lot more than I would drive a car…meaning that people that buy and drive these cars, they are the experts in terms of what they want, and we should listen to them.

The new steering wheel is a bit of a hot topic, and a lot of people think a great compromise would have been to have a new-style steering wheel with the Camaro name in the center. Was there a reason that wasn’t done when it was changed?

It was a steering wheel that we took as-is, and we couldn’t change it much. We needed to do the interior update really quickly; and if you make a change on the airbag cover, you have to test it again.

If we had had more time to get around the airbag testing (but we wanted to get the change out there for customers) that is something we probably would have done. But we’ve got a lot of good feedback on the steering wheel, too – in the way it feels.

And I think, my job being director for performance cars, I’ve got to really respect my vehicles. And like Corvette and Camaro, I’ve got to make sure that (within reason) we develop things specifically for performance cars…and we keep them within performance cars. Without using something from another car that is so obviously not appropriate for those vehicles.

What is your favorite feature of the interior of the Camaro, when you compare it to other cars out there?

I love the Camaro, I love to drive it, I do! I prefer it more now with that insert and the suede. I’m being honest; I really like the interior. When somebody asks me the same question about the Corvette I like to say a part, but you see, I love to drive the Camaro…If I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say the change we did to the IP. And when we first launched the car, there was no navigation because it was based on the show car that didn’t have it, and I do like the fact that we added that and we’re bringing the technology to the car.
Full interview list:

Interview 1: Mark Stielow (Chief Engineer of Z/28)
Interview 2: John Fitzpatrick (Marketing Manager for Chevrolet Performance Cars)
Interview 3: Helen Emsley (Director of Interior Design for Performance Cars)
Interview 4: Mary Barra (GM Senior Vice President, Global Product Development)
Interview 5: Russ Clark (Director of Marketing, Performance Cars)
Interview 6: Tom Peters (Director, Exterior Design)
Interview 7: Ed Welburn (Vice President of Global Design)
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