What Drives Her: GM’s Electrification with Jennifer Widrick

Jennifer Widrick Featured Image. Photo: Gm
Jennifer Widrick Featured Image. Photo: GM

We were dying to know who is responsible for the design of the gorgeous Cadillac Lyric.

In the race for car manufacturers to electrify their lineups and strive toward a better future, Jennifer Widrick is pushing General Motors to the forefront. As the Global Director of Color, Material and Finish, Jennifer has created harmonious designs that collide with nature. Jennifer and her team broaden GM’s vision of sustainability by evaluating the materials used in new electric vehicles such as the Cadillac Lyriq.

“We’re projecting the future, what vehicles might be like, what consumers might be like in 2030,” Jennifer told us.

Related: Cadillac’s Future is Electric and Lyriq Leads the Way

How Jennifer Widrick is Creating Sustainability Alongside Beauty

Jennifer has been at GM for three years and leads a team of nearly 100 people. Together, they focus on bringing EV designs to life for Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC. From vehicle concepts all the way down to production and launch, Jennifer and her team examine and articulate the design. Moreover, while GM’s efforts focus on reducing CO2 emissions, Jennifer’s team takes the mission further by reassessing the materials used in their vehicles as well.

Recently, GM Ventures announced an R&D collaborative with the company MycoWorks to make “leather” out of mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms that has a variety of uses as a meat alternative and building material. According to MycoWorks, GM could possibly use its mycelium leather in the car seats, dashboards and steering wheels of its new vehicles.

“It’s a grown product, so it’s not really leather, but it looks, touches, feels like leather,” Jennifer explained.

The automotive industry is the second biggest market for leather. Therefore, GM could have a major impact if they swap out their materials for more environmentally friendly ones. Jennifer envisions a future where all the materials she works with are more sustainable.

“Our mass manufacturing ability can change the world,” said Jennifer. “Think about how large the company is, how many brands we cover. If we are successful even in the small wins, it’s huge to the consumers in the world.”

Related: Say Ciao To Alcantara: The New Italian Word For Sustainable Luxury

Interior Of The Cadillac Lyriq

A bird’s eye view of the interior of the Cadillac Lyriq. Photo: Cadillac

A Heavy Focus on Peaceful and Harmonious Interactions with Technology

Aside from sustainability efforts, Jennifer has other major responsibilities at GM. Jennifer interfaces with partners all over the globe, including South Korea, China, Brazil and California.

Additionally, she is responsible for everything you see and touch in a new GM electric vehicle. This is no small feat. Every detail counts, from the interior and exterior colors, gloss, textures, finish, fabric, carpet and textiles. Eventually, her team’s completed designs will be out there for all to see. The work they do will ultimately decide whether GM’s latest innovation will be coveted or criticized.

“We have an amazing organization,” Jennifer complimented her team. “We’re all learning from each other in the experience.”

Also, Jennifer and her team have to think about incorporating technology in a user-friendly way. She acknowledged that the addition of touch screens and foreign safety features in modern vehicles can be overwhelming for many people.

“Don’t be afraid of technology,” she warned. They make sure to use materials that not only highlight technology features but also create a balance in the cabin.

“We think about those things every day, so we’re not distracting our drivers,” she explained. “We’re creating peace and harmony.”

Jennifer’s Journey into Automotive began with Creativity

Jennifer started her journey into automotive at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. There, she studied interdisciplinary practices. She worked with metals, welding, glass blowing, and furniture making. After taking a trim and color class, Jennifer knew where she wanted to start her career.

“I was like ‘Wow! This is everything I do, and we’re bringing it together to create environments that move people,’” she said.

Related: What Drives Her: Meet Hannah Dunbar, The Color and Trim Designer Behind the 2023 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate

18 Years at Ford Laid the Foundation for Widrick’s Next Move

After college, she attended an interview panel with Ford Motor Company, landed a job, and never looked back. However, she also had a passion for sustainability and started to wonder what other opportunities were out there for her.

After 18 years at Ford, GM offered her a perfect position to combine her expert designs with sustainability efforts. GM’s clear vision of the future spoke to Jennifer, and she eagerly accepted the offer.

“The statement around going all EV was something I had to be a part of,” Jennifer said. “I got to fall in love with automotive all over again when I joined GM.”

Cadillac Lyriq. Photo: Cadillac

The design of the Cadillac Lyriq is a fresh evolution of the brand’s designs. Photo: Cadillac

The Cadillac Lyriq Evokes Nature, and Bling

Her first project at GM was working on the first all-electric Cadillac: the Lyriq. The creative vision was all about bringing technology and nature together. Jennifer described the luxury of its “jewelry-type” details and integrated technology. The Cadillac Lyriq holds a special place in Jennifer’s heart, and she’s very proud of the design. In fact, the Lyriq is her dream car, and she’s looking to snag one for herself. Jennifer, alongside hundreds of thousands of others, has a spot on the packed waitlist for the new Cadillac Lyriq.

“The experience is beautiful,” said Jennifer. “It’s really showcasing technology, materials, and kind of the future nod for Cadillac.”

A Career of Her Own Happened After Encouragement and Empowerment from Another Woman in Automotive

It’s hard to imagine what GM’s EV lineups and sustainability efforts would look like without Jennifer. However, she didn’t always envision her future as a successful woman in automotive. She actually considered staying at home, just as her mother did and so many women before her.

It was another successful woman in automotive that spoke to Jennifer and inspired her to continue building a career. Now, she is grateful for the woman-to-woman conversation and strives to show her children what independence looks like. Jennifer and her husband both have careers of their own and support each other 50-50 in caring for their two young children.

“For me, I want them to see that you can have it all,” Jennifer said. “When they tell me that they’re proud of Mom, I’m setting the example of what a woman can be.”

Eden is a freelance writer and editor. She is based in Austin, Texas where she is pursuing a bachelor's... More about Eden Shamy