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From the Drawing Board to the Showroom: Designing the GMC Terracross

Aired January 12, 2001 - 4:55 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Remember that kid in your fifth-grade class -- I remember him -- sitting in the back of the room, drawing pictures of race cars in his science book? Wonder where he is today? And what would he give for a job like Carl Zipfel's? Who's Carl Zipfel, you say, and what's his job?

Here's Ed Garsten to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rotating slowly on a life-size virtual reality screen, the ideas once deep inside designer Carl Zipfel's head are represented as the concept vehicle that will be known as the GMC Terracross, an experiment in design and technology or more simply, an SUV that's loaded with stuff you can't have yet. From the doors...

CARL ZIPFEL, DESIGNER: The rear doors in this vehicle basically pop out and slide parallel to the body side.

GARSTEN: To the configurable instrument panel and the integrated, all-in-one information center, including a pop-up laptop computer. Not every cool feature will make it to your showroom, but the designers hope that at least some of these features will end up in a car you can drive. Where do these concepts start? It's a group effort at first.

RANDY MAES, GENERAL MOTORS: We have a team that creates concepts on a continuum, and then they -- we take those concepts. We choose which ones are most likely to succeed in the marketplace or things that we may want to experiment with.

GARSTEN: Then, a lead designer is named to give the ideas three dimensions. A life-size clay model is built, and then the actual car goes into production.

MAES: This is the prototype assembly area here at General Motors Tech Center, and we build all our show vehicles, concept vehicles here, that go to the auto shows.

GARSTEN: Well, here, the Terracross becomes a real car. Hand- picked craftsmen carefully put every component in place, painting, puttying, sanding. Last stop is the paint shop. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is supposed to be a break here.

GARSTEN: Well, then, finally, after 11 months of incubation from idea to reality, accompanied by pulsing electronic music, Carl Zipfel's baby is introduced to the world at the auto show in Detroit.

ANNOUNCER: GMC Terracross; designer, Carl Zipfel.

ZIPFEL: One of the more exciting parts is just to finally see it finished and then hear the feedback from all of the people down at the show.

GARSTEN: And then start thinking about how to top that for next year's concept car.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Detroit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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