New North American Car of the Year trophy designed by Welburn; $50,000 endowment created for WSU scholarship

DETROIT — Ed Welburn has designed hundreds of cars over the course of his automotive career. He served as General Motors’ Vice President of Global Design from 2003 to 2016. Some of his most recent concept designs include the Cadillac Converj, Cadillac CTS Coupe, Chevrolet Camaro Coupe, Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, and the Buick Invicta Concept.

But this may be his first time designing an automotive trophy. Welburn was asked to create a new trophy for the North American Car of the Year award. He did just that with the help of Andrew Bianchi from Panasonic Automotive Systems and American Arrow in Clawson.

The unveiling of the new trophy took place on Tuesday afternoon during a meeting of the Automotive Press Association (APA) inside the Detroit Athletic Club.

“I wanted to create a trophy that would live up to the prestige of this very important award,” Welburn said. “I wanted this award to be an inspiration to engineers and designers across the auto industry. When I took on his project, I immediately thought of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences award, Oscar. I was inspired by the form, its confidence and the whole dramatic presence that the award has. Simply put, if Oscar had a car, this would be that car.”

Two models of the North American Car of the Year trophy were shown during the meeting. The larger version will remain on permanent display inside Cobo Center year round. The smaller model will be presented to the winning automaker during the first press day of the North American International Auto Show on Monday, Jan. 9.


Ed Welburn and Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press unveiling the new North American Car of the Year trophies. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)


“I wanted a design that would be timeless and would not represent any particular brand at all,” the former GM design chief added. “My first sketches were developed while I was on a beach vacation with Jessie and my grand kids and a couple of her kids. My design fees can be rather significant. So I decided to ask that the award committee make a significant contribution to one of Jessie and my favorite organizations, the Children’s Hospital Foundation, which they will do.”

This year’s finalists for North American Car of the Year include the Chevrolet Bolt, Genesis G90 and Volvo S90. The finalists for the Truck of the Year are the Ford F-series Super Duty, Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Titan. For the first time, an SUV of the Year trophy will be handed out to one of these three finalists: Chrysler Pacifica, Jaguar F-Pace and the Mazda CX-9.

“Today’s North American auto industry is alive,” Welburn explained. “There is so much creativity. There are so many evolving trends in cars and trucks and utilities. Great vehicles coming from absolutely everywhere. I’m just glad that the Welburn Group and I have a part in this award for years to come.”

APA Journalism Scholarship Created

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APA President Rod Meloni holds up a check to create the Al Vinikour Journalism Scholarship

Rod Meloni, WDIV-TV Business Reporter and Automotive Press Association President, showed off a giant check that you would normally see on a TV game show. The APA made a $50,000 donation to Wayne State University to create the continuing automobile journalism scholarship. It was in memory of longtime auto journalist and APA member Al Vinikour who passed away in 2016.

“The APA is committed to a serious scholarship here,” Meloni said. “We really want this to matter. We can allow the next generation of automotive journalists to begin to learn what it is they need.”

Students will be invited to apply for this scholarship at Wayne State University at a later date. It is not known how much each winner will receive. However, the scholarship is expected to finance education for the next 20-30 years.

Two longtime APA members honored

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APA Emeritus Board Member Ken Zino

Automotive journalist Ken Zino was named an Emeritus Board Member of the APA. He was an original founder of the organization 25 years ago. Meloni presented a special plaque to Zino for his service.

“I’m surprised, but not speechless,” Zino said. “I’m just going to say thank you.”

Just last week, Mona Richard announced her retirement from Toyota. She served as a longtime Assistant Public Relations Manager for the automaker. In addition, Richard was integral in the founding and nurturing of the APA.

“I just want to thank all of my friends at APA, you’ve been wonderful,” she said. “This is a classy organization. All of the board members and members have been real honored representing the automotive media and automotive public relations. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

For more information about the Automotive Press Association, visit


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Longtime Toyota Assistant Public Relations Manager Mona Richard is retiring


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Introducing the Automotive Press Association Al Vinikour Journalism Scholarship


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Journalism students from Wayne State University were on hand for the announcement


The all-new North American Car of the Year trophy designed by Ed Welburn.
The all-new North American Car of the Year trophy designed by Ed Welburn.


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From left to right: 2016 NAIAS Chairman Scott LaRiche, 2017 NAIAS Chairman Sam Slaughter and NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts.

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