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[Herald Interview] Cross-border cooperation drives success of Chevrolet Trax Crossover

Stuart Norris, design vice president of GM International, touts team Korea’s ability to understand global trends, market direction

June 22, 2023 - 15:44 By Kan Hyeong-woo
(From left) Stuart Norris, design vice president of GM China and GM International, and designers at GM design studio in Korea -- Lee Hwa-soup, Whang Bo-young and Kim Hong-ki -- stand next to the Chevrolet Trax Crossover during an interview at the House of GM in Seoul on Tuesday. (General Motors)

The number of preorders for the second-generation Chevrolet Trax Crossover surpassed 13,000 a week after the Korean office of General Motors launched the preorders in March. The figure set a new record for the American auto brand as the vehicle with the most preorders in a week, according to GM.

The vehicle’s relatively cheap price tag starting at 20.5 million won ($15,900) is likely to have contributed to the sales rush, but the automaker is attributing both the vehicle’s immersive interior and expressive exterior design as another major reason behind the early success of the car.

“You see the personality of Chevrolet (in the Trax Crossover). We’ve moved beyond just expressing and the customers moved beyond just expressing design through exterior styling. Interior design has as much brand identity and it has to reflect the character of the brand as much as the exterior styling does,” said Stuart Norris, design vice president of GM China and GM International, in an interview at the House of GM in Seoul on Tuesday.

“So the customers get this very immersive experience with the brand whether they are looking at the car as they walk away from it, as they walk up to it, when they open the door and get it. So the Trax Crossover is the next big move in that branded experience.”

Pointing out that Korea’s GM design studio is the biggest outside the North American headquarters, Norris emphasized the importance of global collaboration between regional studios and how the Korean team contributes to the US automaker’s overall design portfolio.

“We have a fantastic team here that has great capability. Using immersive tools like head-mounted displays and digital tools enables us to get quicker to market but also to globally collaborate," he said.

Norris said they work closely with the brand homerooms back in North America in designing programs across the key brands for General Motors.

"So Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac are all in one way or another worked on in the studio here in Korea,” he said.

The House of GM, the first GM-integrated brand store in Korea that opened in May, exemplifies the international design vice president’s remarks. The House of GM has brought together the American auto brand’s various products in one place to offer customers a chance to test out various kinds of vehicles and receive feedback.

“I think one of the advantages that the General Motors design team in Korea brings is incredible insight, being able to understand global trends, being able to understand where the market is going and providing really compelling and exciting designs that respond to where the market is going and what the demographics are looking for. I think (the new Trax Crossover) reflects our ability to be responsive to changing market needs,” said Norris.

Stuart Norris, design vice president of GM China and GM International, speaks in an interview at the House of GM in Seoul on Tuesday. (General Motors)

The first-generation Chevy Trax Crossover redefined the segment of crossover utility vehicle, a class to indicate cars that used to be in the gray area between sedans and sport utility vehicles, when it launched in 2013. Having undergone a full facelift for the first time in 10 years, the vehicle answered the fresh demands of customers, according to the designers who played integral roles in the car’s development.

“In the past, Chevrolet’s interior design identity was about the dual cockpit. But we wanted to have a breakthrough as we were preparing for the (new Trax Crossover). So we shifted to a driver-focused style. Applying the latest technology such as a display with functionality, we came up with a speedy and dynamic interior,” said designer Whang Bo-young.

The driver-focused interior is highlighted further with a floating dual screen consisting of an 8-inch color cluster display and an 11-inch color touchscreen, which is tilted about 9 degrees toward the driver to give a driver-centered feeling.

On the outside, the Chevy Trax Crossover dons the CUV’s distinctive feature that combines sleek ratios and sportiness. The combination of a wide wheelbase, muscular body shape and lower roofline creates the vehicle’s sporty dynamism.

“The proportional perspective of the exterior design, which we call a stance, shows that the vehicle is standing with stability on the road. Also, the muscular aspects are smoothly connected from the top of the shoulder and the headlamps to the tail lamps so customers can comfortably enjoy the active lifestyle of the car,” said designer Lee Hwa-soup.