General Motors shakes up its global design staff amid extensive restructuring of the auto maker’s European operations and growing regulatory pressure worldwide to improve fuel economy, placing more emphasis on its individual brands.
Among the key moves, Ken Parkinson goes from executive director-North American Exterior Design/Global Architecture Strategy and Chevrolet Brand Champion, to executive director-Global Chevrolet and GMC Design.
Mark Adams, currently vice president-GM Europe Design and Opel/Vauxhall Brand Champion, will relocate to the auto maker’s Warren, MI, studio as executive director-Global Cadillac and Buick Design.
Dave Lyon takes over for Adams in Russelsheim, Germany, after leading North American Interiors/Global Cross-Brand Design and serving as Buick/GMC Brand Champion.
Lyon will sit on the leadership team with Karl-Friedrich Stracke, president-GME and CEO of Opel/Vauxhall. Stracke recently was appointed to GME, taking over for a retiring Nick Reilly and tasked with turning around the one remaining weak link in the auto maker’s 3-year-old restructuring.
For Adams and Lyon, the moves mark their first international assignments.
“This new structure provides a foundation to build and grow the design language for each of our brands moving forward,” Ed Welburn, vice president-GM Global Design, says 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.”
GM expects the brand-focused design organization will deliver stronger and more common messages across each marque’s product portfolio; provide designers a more intimate understanding of each brand by living with them day-to-day; allow for more parts sharing across brands; and stimulate creativity among individual design team members and give them a clearer purpose.
At the Detroit auto show earlier this year, Welburn told WardsAuto of the difficulty GM faces developing a singular character for its individual brands. For example, Chevrolet carried a slightly different badge in each market.
“Every different country had its own bow tie,” Welburn said. “They didn’t want to give it up either, because it meant so much in their country. So to get everyone on board with that, it helped everyone to understand the importance of an individual brand.”
In other appointments, Clay Dean takes on the newly created position of director-GM Global Advanced Design. Currently serving as director-GM North American Advanced Design and Cadillac Brand Champion, Dean will function as the lead integrator and coordinator of all advanced design activity around the world.
GM says the new structure increases the role of its advanced-design studios located in the U.S., Germany, Korea, China and Australia. The unit faces the task of making GM’s cars and trucks more fuel-efficient ahead of strict new regulations emerging worldwide.
“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 says in the statement.
“One thing is clear: Success will require a variety of mobility solutions that are striking both in their execution and their efficiency.”
GM generally has placed greater emphasis on its design organization since its 2009 bankruptcy, including putting Welburn on the auto maker’s highest-ranking executive committee.
Elsewhere in GM design, Bryan Nesbitt remains vice president-GM International Operations Design and Brand Champion for Wuling and Baojun, with a focus on the markets of China and India. Mike Simcoe stays as executive director-GMIO Design and Brand Champion for GM Holden with responsibilities for growth in Korea and Australia.
Carlos Barba, executive director-GM South America Design, will continue leading GM Design in Brazil, while Teckla Rhoads, director-GM Global Industrial Design, retains global responsibility for the auto maker’s industrial-design operations.
Mark Leavy, executive director-GM Global Design Operations, continues in his current role.
All of the appointments are effective Aug. 1.