3Eager to lose its reputation for boring cars, General Motors has shaken up its worldwide design studios by hiring outside, European-trained designers and promoting promising young stylists from within.
GM's latest move came at the start of the month when Anne Asensio, the third-ranked designer at Renault, decided to join the world's largest automaker in the USA.
Asensio, 37, will move to Detroit this autumn to become director of GM's brand studios. In that role she will oversee GM's team of young brand character design managers, all under the age of 40, and lead all future and concept vehicle design programs.
'There has been a massive re-energizing of the design staff,' said Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America. 'I think that's starting to come true with the concepts that we showed through the auto show season and our intention to build a number of those.'
Said Zarrella: 'It's not just Anne Asensio. If you walk through our studios today, you see a lot of people with orange hair and body piercings.'
GM design hit a recent low point in the early 1990s when it fielded two duds under former design chief Chuck Jordan: the boatlike Chevrolet Caprice and much-maligned minivans. Wayne Cherry succeeded Jordan in 1992.
Zarrella said GM designs were cautious later in the 1990s because the financially restricted company couldn't afford a poor seller.
'The company is on pretty solid financial ground right now, so you can start to take that risk pendulum away from 'take no risk,' ' he said.
'If you're going to improve your market position and grow market share, you have to start taking some risks.' Asensio will report directly to Cherry, vice president of GM design.
'We feel Anne, with her experience and her global perspective, is going to add value to work we're already doing,' Cherry said.
Asensio, who met Cherry for the first time at last year's Frankfurt auto show, said GM won her over with its latest concept vehicles and by giving her the chance to work in the USA.
'It is the opportunity for me to have an international career,' she said.
Asensio's success at Renault, designing the Megane Scenic minivan as well as the Clio and Twingo cars, has earned her a spot on the list of potential successors to Cherry, who turns 63 in September.
But Asensio won't speculate on her future at GM. She said: 'I think it will take a little time to understand what my mission and function will be at GM.'