GM Unifies Global Design Strategy

by , Jun 19, 2012, 4:56 PM
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General Motors' Global Design division is making big changes organizationally. The idea is to align executive appointments to the benefit of the company's 10 design offices, which are in the United States, Germany, Korea, China, Australia, Brazil and India.  

Ken Parkinson, executive director of North American exterior design and global architecture strategy, and also Chevrolet “Brand Champion,” will be executive director of Global Chevrolet and GMC Design. 

Mark Adams, who is the VP of GM Europe design and “Brand Champion” for Opel/Vauxhall, will relocate to Warren, Mich., to be executive director of Global Cadillac and Buick Design. David Lyon, who heads up North American interiors and global cross-brand design and is the Buick/GMC “Brand Champion,” will relocate to Russelsheim, Germany, to be VP of the design program there, with an emphasis on growing the Opel/Vauxhall brand. Lyon will sit on the leadership team of Karl-Friedrich Stracke, president, GM Europe and CEO of Opel/Vauxhall.

Poised to take the top spot in the global design conning tower is Clay Dean, who is currently the director of North American Advanced Design and Cadillac “Brand Champion.” In his new role he will be director of Global Advanced Design, where he will be lead integrator and coordinator of all Advanced Design activity around the world, according to GM.

Bryan Nesbitt, who right now is VP of GMIO (General Motors International Operations) Design and “Brand Champion” for Wuling and Baojun, will continue to serve as the lead voice for Design in the GMIO region and focus on developing and growing the company’s operations in China and India. Nesbitt will continue to sit on GMIO President Tim Lee’s leadership team.

Ed Welburn, who runs the automaker's global design strategy, said the new structure will further the company's global platform strategy. General Motors, like Ford, has evolved away from a traditional paradigm where U.S.-based designers made cars for the U.S. and designers elsewhere did the same thing for their markets and the various entities probably didn't spend much time talking to each other. Now, with a big focus on global efficiencies, you have vehicles like Ford's Fiesta and Focus and GM's Delta II compact-car platform cars like Chevy Cruze and Gamma II sub-compact like Chevy Sonic designed for the world by people in various global design studios. 

“This new structure provides a foundation to build and grow the design language for each of our brands moving forward,” said Welburn in a statement. “It gives our design teams a greater opportunity to create products and brands that have an emotional connection with our customers and that continue to move our company forward.”

The company says the new arrangement will help unify messaging and looks for each of GM's four brands -- Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC; provide for greater parts sharing across brands; and foster more creativity and provide a clear, single purpose for each design team member. The company says it also makes the company's Advanced Design Centers in the U.S., Germany, Korea, China and Australia more important.

“Strengthening our Advanced Design organization will allow us to help the company develop innovative new technologies and strategies to meet the future transportation needs of the global marketplace,” Welburn said. “One thing is clear: Success will require a variety of mobility solutions that are striking both in their execution and their efficiency.”

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