By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Foresee Car Design, Canyon Lake
Chief Designer: Cornelis G. Steenstra
Having worked as a designer for Volvo, Mazda and Mercedes-Benz, Dutchman Cornelis Steenstra opened Foresee Car Design as a consultation company that works with all the major OEs, covering everything from initial sketches to final renderings. Foresee and other consultants provide valuable second opinions on in-house designs as well as new technologies to improve the design process, all without having to go through a lengthy bureaucratic process.
GM 5350 Industrial Concepts, North Hollywood
Chief Designer: Frank Saucedo
A major player in the industry and GM’s heart and soul in Southern California, 5350 pushes Detroit into radically different styles and concepts, to the benefit of both design and motor freaks alike. GM chairman Bob Lutz’s baby, the 2005 Pontiac Solstice, and the Chevy Borrego concept were born at this recently relaunched studio.
Honda Research and Development, Torrance
Chief Designer: David Marek
Honda now produces 80 percent of its vehicles in the USA or Canada, and in order to capture the zeitgeist of North American automobile design, a large portion of those vehicles are designed at Honda’s R&D lab in Torrance. Such perennial best-sellers as the Civic and Accord coupes and more upscale models such as the Acura CL TL and MDX were all products of this large studio. Futures in the works: the Honda SUT show car.
Nissan Design America, San Diego
President: Tom Semple
Like Honda, Nissan builds many of its vehicles in the USA, at plants in Smyrna, Tennessee; Canton, Mississippi; and here in San Diego. Founded in 1979, Nissan Design America (NDA) started off the ’80s with a line of best-selling pickup trucks. Since then, the Altima, Sentra and Quest as well as the Titan and the Armada Pathfinder have all been designed here. NDA employs more than 20 designers.Performance West Group, Bonsall
Executive Vice President: Lawrence H. Weiner
Performance West Group is one of the many Southland companies that work on designing and constructing after-market show cars for the major OEs, meaning they trick out base production models with accouterments. Think Extreme Makeover. Occasionally, these show cars are turned into limited-edition vehicles, such as the 2004 Dodge Ram “Rumble Bee.” Other Performance West models include the 2004 Ford F-150 “Big Sky” and the 2003 Chrysler Pacifica Royal.
Porsche engineering Services Styling Studio,
Huntington Beach Director and Chief Designer: Roland Heller The Porsche studio is a fairly new player in the Southern California game, having opened in 1999. Like BMW’s DesignworksUSA, the studio blends a traditional Teutonic edge with California finesse as both an in-house corporate-style incubator and a consultant for other large transportation and industrial-design companies.
SO-CAL Speed Shop, Pomona
SO-CAL Speed Shop has been making some of the most awesome hot rods, belly-tankers and streamliners around since 1946. In more recent years, it moved into partnering with the OEs to provide custom show versions of production and concept models. Their Jimmy Shine Ford F-150 was a hit at this year’s SEMA show, and Chevrolet is now producing the retro-futuristic roadster pickup model the SSR, which SO- CAL helped engineer.GM’S Frank Saucedo designed So-Cal Speed Shop’s Ecotex Lakester, based on So-Cal's original 1952 Belly Tank Lakester. It will race at the Goodwood Festival
Toyota’s Calty Design Research, Newport Beach
Opened in 1973, CALTY (for California Toyota) was one of the first big studios in Southern California. It functions as an incubator of forward-thinking industrial and automotive design for both Toyota and Lexus. Calty’s Irwin Lui designed the most talked-about new car model in 20 years, the first-generation Toyota Prius. Look for more hybrid models and concepts from Calty in the near future, such as the FJ-Cruiser concept vehicle below.
Chief Designer: Derek Jenkins
Starting with the original 1994 J Mays–designed Concept 1, which became the New Beetle, Audi and VW have taken their design ethos in the last few years to another inspired level. Here, Derek Jenkins has designed a whole slew of interesting concepts, from the soon-to-be-slated Microbus to the off-road madness of the Dune and Concept T. Next year, the studio will move to more cosmopolitan digs in Santa Monica.
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