jump to navigation

GM Design Change April 2, 2007

Posted by Brian Mulligan in Auto's, Growth, Manufacturing, transportation.

Design is the biggest part of car making. The design either turns a customer off or excites the customer to buy the car. Originally, GM thought that American design would sell well in both the US and internationally, but they were very wrong. They soon employed design teams in each country.

To combat the needs of international drivers, GM has established 11 design team scattered across the world. The most success for GM has actually been in China. Behind the work of Joe Qiu, the head designer for the highest selling Buick in China, the LaCrosse. He worked with his team in China, totalling 100 people with only one non-Chinese worker from Canada. This is a testament to the changes that GM has gone through.

In the past, GM believed that whatever came out of Detroit was the right thing for selling their cars in both US and abroad. The China office had a paltry 23 people, all American, in their office only six years ago. Now the office is all Chinese, whom are in touch with the needs and wants of the Chinese.

In a effort to promote creativity, GM actually pit all of the 11 offices of design against each other to create the best design for their cars. This created incentive for the designers and pushed them to find new ways to design cars and make them appeal to the public.

“But the executives also understood that they could no longer depend solely on Detroit talent. To compete with the best products, and to serve a global market, they would have to tap creativity in new places and in new ways. Welburn and Lutz decided that competition–the bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred sort–would expose the best ideas, wherever they came from.”

The CEO Ed Welburn decided to place the Chinese office against the North American office for the design of the Buick LaCrosse. The two teams came up with drastically different ideas for the car. In the end, Welburn combined both of their designs to create a car that had an interior inspired by Qiu and an exterior designed by the North American office. The car sold like wildfire in China, only second to the sales in the US as told in the article in Fast Company Magazine, “Made in China.”

Looking forward, the company has made sweeping changes with their design idea and how their company manages their creativity and design.

Do you think each country’s office should design the whole car for each region? Do you feel that this is cost effective? Do you think that GM should stick with this setup or not?



1. Stephanie - April 2, 2007

My first instinct would be that designing a separate car for each country or region would be as far from cost effective as possible. But thinking about customer needs, wants and various trends in particular places, designing cars more specific to countries may in fact be smarter.

I just saw an article in Business Week about GM’s new small Chevrolet which will be appearing at the New York Auto Show. The new small car is the size of a mini cooper but the big question is whether it will sell and where. Other companies are following suit with small cars, but along with this one, they are not being offered to the customer quite yet.


2. Elaine - April 3, 2007

I believe that is is a smart move for GM to adapt to the needs and wants of each region. Meeting customer satisfaction should be high on every company’s priority list. It may cost more, but in the long run, it will be beneficial for the company.

3. Charley S - April 5, 2007

I do beleive that GM needs to tailor its designs to each region of the world. Tastes are so different outside of the US that it just sticks to reason that GM should try to appease them. Also, with the advent of computer aided design and highly roboticized manufacturing process, GM should be able to keep the costs of producing different vehicles to a minimum.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: