Jelani Aliyu is a United States-based Nigerian automotive designer, who designed the General Motors’ leading auto brand, Chevrolet Volt. Acclaimed as the world’s best car designer, Jelani Aliyu was born in 1966. He is happily married with children.
I grew up in Sokoto, land of the midday sun. My parents came from Dogondaji, which is a town about an hour southwest of Sokoto. Growing up was a fascinating experience, the wide open spaces, the brightblue skies and the very closely knit family. They were very exciting times. I attended Capital School and FGC Sokoto, where I met a lot of friends and teachers from many parts of Nigeria, and from Asia, and Europe.
After FGC Sokoto, I had a number of admissions and the opportunity to study at a number of universities in the country, but I chose to study Architecture at the Birnin-Kebbi Polytechnic, because my priority was to immediately engage in hands on practical design, which the polytechnic offered, and to prepare myself for Automotive Design. At Birnin-Kebbi I did studies in sustainable home designs that were in tune with the Nigerian climate, buildings that passively kept cool without the need for air conditioners or other external energy sources.
After Birnin-Kebbi I concentrated on going into Automotive Design itself. I got a book from acousin of mine that listed all the American colleges and universities, in there I learnt of the Collage for Creative Studies in Michigan. I sent them the portfolio of designs I had done and secured admission. Sokoto State Scholarship Board offered me a full scholarship to study at the college.
After graduation I got a job with General Motors, after about three years in Detroit I went on an international assignment to Germany for about two years to design Opels. When I came back to the Tech Center I worked on the Pontiac G6, then I transferred to the company’s Advanced Design Studio, there I developed the design concept of the Chevrolet Volt Electric Car, the vehicle would go on to usher in a new era not just for GM but for the whole industry and world in general.
The Chevrolet Volt project started with a brief by the then Vice President of product development on the need to develop a highly advanced vehicle concept that would take the company forward into the future. Three advanced studios were engaged in the competition, the one in California, one in the United Kingdom and the Michigan Advanced Studio where I was. Together there were hundreds of entries.
Out of those hundreds, five were chosen for the final round. At the final selection my proposal was chosen to go forward as the Volt. I conceptualized the design of the Volt to be very advanced and to capture the spirit of the African wilderness and also that of the magnificence of the marine life off the African Atlantic shores: like a cheetah poised for an attack, like a shark swimming with powerful grace and focus.
Automotive design is part of Industrial design, which is a fascinating field, in its purest and most useful form it is a tool for survival and economic growth, dealing with the challenges that people face every day and coming up with solutions to them, which are for the most part physical products or systems that empower people and make life easier, they also enhance relationships and interactions within humanity and between humanity and the environment.
I strongly believe that no other man made product that is so attainable by billions of people has as much magic and enchantment as the automobile.
The entire management and staff of NADDC receive with joy the news of the appointment of this world acclaimed automotive industry specialist as the NADDC Director General and wish him a most successful tenure.