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GM rearranging Global Leadership Team with Nesbitt appointment

Unlike the pre-bankruptcy days, General Motors (NYSE: GM) must be careful not to rearrange the corporate deck chairs just for the sake of rearranging. Any change has to be cognizant of global markets; and Bryan Nesbitt has the confidence of GM’s management.

Fact is, global bias will be the key to future success for GM as it will be for every other auto manufacturer.

This latest rearrangement of personnel affects GM’s Global Design organization. According the GM news release, Bryan Nesbitt, executive director – North American Exterior Design and Global Architecture Strategy, is appointed vice president of GMIO Design.

Nesbitt will relocate to Shanghai, China, and serve as the lead voice for Design in the GMIO region as well as serve as the “Brand Champion” for Wuling and Baojun.

This decision means, Ken Parkinson, currently Vice President of GMIO Design, will repatriate to the United States and become Executive Director, North American Exterior Design and Global Architecture. In addition, Parkinson will serve as the “Brand Champion” for Chevrolet.

“This alignment will continue to position GM’s Global Design organization to provide the company with a compelling vision for future vehicle designs and the excellent execution of GM products,” said Ed Welburn, GM vice president, Global Design.

The moves are effective August 1. The rest of GM’s Global Design organization remains unchanged.

Torque News Assessment

Design in the mind of those who watch GM from afar usually just involves the style of the vehicle. Truth is, it involves much more than that, like the coordination of product across national boundaries. Engineering know-how has or should have as much importance globally as body style and interior flair, in my opinion.

No doubt Mr. Nesbitt had the attention of Bob Lutz when he brought him from Chrysler to GM. His first program, I believe, was the Chevy HHR because he already had experience with the PT Cruiser at Chrysler.

On a personal note, I found Mr. Nesbitt barely cordial in the halls of Design Center except among his own level within management. He reminded me of naval officers who didn’t like fraternizing with the enlisted men. That is so far different than Lutz who was a Marine officer. He would at least nod, and give recognition by saying hello once in a while. My respect for Lutz runs deep.

Still, Nesbitt is young; he has the talent and obviously the trust of Ed Welburn; unless I’m totally misreading the move, and they want to get Nesbitt out of Warren for a while, or until he grows up in the way GM wants him to grow. He already spent time in Europe, and that experience likely had a major part in GM's decision.

On the technical front, I doubt Nesbitt will be involved in the power train decisions, just design. Yet, in my mind, design must be cognizant of power trains and their effect on global product performance. Point is, it's huge.

I realize design and style get people into a car; and there has to be coordination globally. However, so does MPG and green powerplants. The world is not as big as it used to be; meaning, the problems of financial burdens are everywhere. Management types at GM fail in understanding and compassion for financial struggles except their own, in my opinion. Only when that changes might we get high tech at prices we can truly afford.

This is where youth tends to be arrogant at times, as my old mentor, Mike Kaiser, once told me, “Frank, youth is wasted on the young.” I was young at the time; at least compared to him. Having grown up among many elders, though, I at least learned to listen when wisdom was speaking.

Still, youth has its own vision, and elders sometimes fail to realize their own dreams lack appeal to the next generation. And perhaps that’s what GM needs - new visions of the future from the likes of people like Nesbitt. For sure, there needs to be balance to the force. But first things first; GM needs Nesbitt to mature his world view if he ever expects to rise within GM ranks.

On the practical side, with gasoline prices not going back to the $2-$3 range in America anytime soon (if ever), design working in concert with engineering is now more important than ever. How you do that without at the very least being personable in the hallway with the enlisted personnel is beyond me, but I do have a simple solution. With all respect to Nesbitt's many talents, perhaps a tour of duty in the military would be a better assignment. It tends to bring focus to what's important in life.

About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures and writes articles, books and ebooks like, "Perfecting Corporate Character," "Awaken Your Speculator Mind", and "Millennial World Order" via He may be contacted here by email: [email protected]

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Frank Sherosky    June 2, 2011 - 8:49AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

You are right (LOL). Frankly, with all respect it's not Scuderi that I like as much as the split cycle engine concept, regardless of who is developing it. I like the Cyclone Power external combustion steam engine, too. And I like nat-gas.

Yes, my articles are flavored with high tech, and if certain names stand out more than others, then so be it. I do have a responsibility to be sure as a reporter/writer to tell the truth at least as I perceive it. Hey, everyone has an opinion.

Point is, design types like Nesbitt and Welburn think they alone are responsible for all future GM success. Of course they take no responsibility for bankruptcy issues of the past. In the case of Ford, I believe its engine tech is outshining its styling, but that's not a horrible condition in my mind either.

Fact is, green powertrains are having as much if not more affect on consumer buying psyche as styling simply due to the cost of gasoline. The one thing required most is getting these green and more efficient powertrains affordable; and electrification is far from affordable to the massses without government (taxpayer) subsidizing it. That's a giant negative in my book.

I also fail to understand the lack of drive in getting engine tech to the next MPG level as well as greener level, like the Scuderi and the Cyclone. I agree with an industry leader saying "all things run on gasoline." That will surely diminish over time, in the short to medium term, they will still rule to a greater degree for many years. Tech like Scuderi and Cyclone running on nat-gas have the potential to save America's energy bill during those years until hydrogen comes on line or electrification sonehow gets cheap, plus make it cleaner so all can breath easier. In that respect, yes, I'm impatient for a some meaningful but affordable change.

And thanks for the heads-up email. Regardless, it is my personal policy not to remove comments even if they're negative against me or against my article positions, not that yours was at all.

View Points (not verified)    June 2, 2011 - 9:10AM

Never understood why Nesbitt deserves any recognition other than the fact he had a powerful "Godfather" - Lutz. Check the sales numbers for the two cars he claimed he had designed (?). They were hardly home-runs. The Chinese will tell him the truth. I regret US media no longer bother to check the facts.