All about Jelani Aliyu – the most prominent Nigerian car designer in General Motors


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The success story of Jelani Aliyu, the most outstanding Nigerian automobile designer is about to be revealed here!

Many Nigerian people are well-known worldwide for the talent in different aspects of life. Among them, Jelani Aliyu has earned a great fame in the auto industry as an prominent designer in the GM Renaissance Center. This following article on is about to tell you the success story of the father of the Chevrolet Volt.


Jelani Aliyu

Jelani Aliyu has strived for 24 years to make himself from a normal Nigerian man to a successful car designer in Detroit. Now, he is the Lead Exterior Designer in General Motors a.k.a the second-biggest car manufacturer of the world. The Chevy Volt, designed in 2007, has won rapturous applauses as being considered one among the up-to-the-minute car models ever. 

Jelani Aliyu's profile

Jelani Aliyu was the fifth in the family of seven children. Born in 1966 in Sokoto, the state of rich culture, Jelani has got unlimited access to the most updated information worldwide from various life aspects since his childhood, giving him invaluable experience for his career.

The future car designer studied in Sokoto Capital School from 1971 to 1978, where he gained a great deal of productive scholastic experience. He spent the next three years at the Federal Government College and received a prestigious award of “The best in Technical Drawing” after graduation.


Jelani gained much useful scholastic experience during his study in the Sokoto Capital School

The car designer in Detroit had many chances to meet many excellent people in both Nigeria and other countries during his study. Undoubtedly, those people were a great encouragement to his design work. He made many scale drawings of his own cars, even with complete exteriors and interiors.

Talking about the motive for his car automotive design career in a rare interview, Jelani said:

I have always loved drawing. These are different things around me, people, objects, plants, also stuff from my imagination. Growing up, I have always loved science fiction, and in the movies, you would see a lot of alien spacecraft and other futuristic things that would inspire me to look beyond. I also love cars very much, even though then we did not have any Ferraris in Sokoto. However, we did have magazines in which I saw them, and they inspired me, too. So I put together my love for drawing and cars and decided to be a car designer.

In 1986, the designer decided to keep on his A-levels at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria. However, he quickly dropped out there, tried the OND in Architecture, and gained the honorable award for the Best All-Round Student in the Federal Polytechnic Birnin Kebbi in Kebbi State from 1986 to 1888.


Jelani dropped out from the in Ahmadu Bello University to pursue his dream of a car designer

Jelani Aliyu also expressed his profound gratitude to his parents due to their full support in everything:

My parents let me decide what I wanted to do. For example, when I went to Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and decided I did not want to continue there, they were supportive. They did not insist that I had to remain there. They have always been supportive and understanding.

Thousands of hours on construction and design researches drove him to the final decision – become an automotive designer. Thereafter, he decided to go to America to study transportation design.

Video: One On One with Jelani Aliyu

Jelani Aliyu and his career in General Motors

Ultimately, Jelani Aliyu went to Detroit in 1990 to enter the College for Creative Studies , thanks to the board sponsorship from the Sokoto Scholarship. The course was so practical, giving him the significance of creativity and knowledge to develop new designs with optimum solutions. During the learning period there, it came no surprise that the Nigerian gifted designer exposed his outstanding ability and won two prestigious awards from Ford Motor Company and Michelin, US.

After Jelani Aliyu got his qualification in automotive design in 1994, General Motors immediately took him to their team, where he started his design career. The Nigerian genius has gained some success there: He’s the co-designer of the Buick Rendezvous, the lead designer for the Pontiac G6’s exterior and contributed to the “Astra project” with General Motors’ Opel Division.

Video: Jelani Aliyu

However, only when Jelani Aliyu successfully worked on the design of the Chevrolet Volt, did he become a superstar in his company. This compact automobile by Jelani was exhibited for the first time at the North American International Auto Show in the city of General Motors Renaissance in 2007.


The Chevrolet Volt design earned Jelani great fame in the car design sector

The Chevrolet Volt, now, is sold at the price about &37,000 (N13.4 million) and equipped with an electric generator which gained power from a 62-kW internal combustion engine. The capacity of the fuel tank can reach 45 liters, enough for the car to run up to 640 miles.


The car can run 640 miles with the full petrol tank and battery

It can be said that Jelani Aliyu’s an ideal model that Nigerian people take pride in. He, along with other Nigerians who strive to prove themselves around the world, has become an inspiration for others to realize their dreams.

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