Chevrolet was one of the sponsors of the 45th NAACP Image Awards and AlwaysAList.com traveled with them to Pasadena, Calif. for a weekend of activities.
An institution that celebrates the advancement of colored people, it was fitting for Chevrolet to have Crystal Windham, who was named Director of Chevrolet Passenger Car and Crossover Interiors in June 2012 on hand for the celebration.
Windham became the first African American female director in General Motors’ design division’s history in November 2008 and has since spearheaded several award-winning passenger car interiors, including the highly acclaimed 2014 Chevrolet Impala.
During a question and answer brunch at The Langham Huntington Hotel moderated by Jocelyn K. Allen, GM’s Director of Grassroots, Community and Diversity Communications, Windham spoke about her groundbreaking role with the American automotive manufacturer.
A graduate of the College for Creative Studies (CCS), Windham – who also got an MBA from the University Detroit Mercy – said she thrives off of breaking new ground with design and providing fresh offerings for customers.
“The design of the vehicles comes from being passionate about what we do and creating something that’s never been seen before,” she explained. “Creating an experience that our customers haven’t seen draws them in!”
Windham admitted that the customers aren’t her only driving force. The 2013 Urban Wheel Designer of the Year recipient confessed that she thrives off of topping the innovation and design of GM’s competitors.
“I’m driven by beating the competition,” she smiled. “Every time you see another manufacturer’s vehicle, it raises the bar and makes you want to design something better.”
Of the competing brands, Hyundai is the company Windham keeps tabs on most.
“My eyes are on them all the time,” she acknowledged. “They’re producing great vehicles and experiences at an affordable price.”
Windham, who oversees a team of 40 individuals, said they typically design four years in advance of a vehicle model’s release.
Though she is the first African American women to land her position in the history of General Motors, she credits other GM designers Marietta Kearney and Edward T. Welburn as people who inspired her.
“I really want to make a difference,” she said, before adding: “And I want to make a difference in the pipeline of GM.”
To encourage other young people of color to explore a career in automotive design, Windham has created a scholarship at her alma mater called You Make A Difference. Students attending Detroit public schools in grades nine through twelve are able to apply.