Design notes

BusinessWeek has a superb article just released that discusses the Lutz era at GM and the changes being made in the design process. Bob’s been fighting a beauracratic uphill battle and slowly but surely the design philosophies and processes at GM are starting to change.

Lutz is trying to generate some passion in the ranks — for the first time, for example, he’s forcing design studios to compete in sketch-offs. And with less money to develop new models than many rivals — 8% of revenues, according to Merrill Lynch, vs. the 10% industry average — he is tapping GM’s global resources to develop models faster and more cheaply.

Is it working? The first new vehicles won’t start hitting dealers until late this year — and there’s no telling how drivers will respond. But Lutz’s design push seems to be paying off. In June, GM provided BusinessWeek and other media a peek at the coming lineup. While GM swore attendees to secrecy, it’s fair to say that future models will be a lot more inspired than the current ones — including a Cadillac CTS with at least a family resemblance to the stunning super-luxury Sixteen show car and a boldly styled Chevrolet Malibu.

“I saw the cars and felt a lot better about GM,” says James N. Hall, vice-president of consultant AutoPacific in Southfield, Calif. “If they had those cars right now, they’d be kicking butt.”

Go read it via the link above. It’s well worth it.

And Bob, please send one of those special engineering teams to figure out the most cost effective way of building this:

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