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Andrew Smith back at Holden as GM reshuffles design

Holden on: Executive director of GM International Operations design, Mike Simcoe, is staying put at Holden amid a global reshuffle of GM’s advanced design network.

New design director but business as usual for Holden as GM reorganises global design

Holden logo20 Jun 2012


ANDREW Smith will return to Holden’s Port Melbourne headquarters as design director on August 1, replacing Tony Stolfo, who had been in the role since 2004 before leaving the company this month.

Meanwhile, the wider General Motors design world is undergoing an overhaul of its organisational structure, with several executives moving brands – and countries – in a bid to strengthen each brand’s design language.

Australian-born Mr Smith is a 20-year GM veteran who started at Holden in 1992 and will leave his role as managing director of architecture and advanced design, based in the South Korean capital Seoul, where he moved two years ago.

Mr Smith will report to executive director of GM International Operations (GMIO) design, Mike Simcoe, a former Holden design director who returned to Australia early last year to take up his current role after six years in the US.

Since leaving Holden in 2005, Mr Smith spent five years at GM’s design headquarters in Detroit, where he held several senior design positions including director of interior design, director of advanced design and director of architecture strategy before his move to South Korea.

The experience Mr Smith gained with global vehicle architectures places him well to lead the design of the next-generation global vehicles that Holden will be building locally in the second half of this decade, as well as the program to develop cars for the Chinese market.

 center imageFrom top: GM vice president for global design Ed Welburn Chevrolet Mi-Ray concept Holden Sandman concept.

Holden external communications director Emily Perry would not confirm whether Mr Smith will be leading the design of the new Holden products, explaining that the company’s design and engineering workload is divided up based on the requirements of programs for Holden and the new Chinese projects announced in April.

Mr Smith said he draws inspiration from the experiences and opportunities he encountered during his overseas assignments.

“I’m excited to be back in Australia leading such an experienced team at Holden. I see my role as integral in driving global collaboration for future product development and ensuring Holden vehicles continue to evolve and meet the needs of our customers into the future,” he said.

During his time at Holden, Mr Smith was responsible for the VU ute’s exterior design plus the Sandman and Utester concepts before leading the interior design of the VE Commodore and WM Statesman/Caprice.

While in the US he led the Small Premium project for Buick and during his time in South Korea, he was responsible for the well-received Chevrolet Miray concept that was displayed at the 2011 Seoul motor show.

His predecessor at Holden, Mr Stolfo, also joined the company in 1992 and worked on the VT Commodore before becoming senior designer with responsibility for the its interior.

Later appointed assistant chief designer, Mr Stolfo led the creation of the VU ute before progressing to chief designer, with responsibility for the VY and VZ Commodore plus the interior of the VE.

Mr Stolfo is understood to now be working as a freelance designer.

GM’s global design reshuffle will not affect Holden’s position as part of the advanced design centre network, with Mike Simcoe retaining his role as Holden brand champion.

Ms Perry suggested it will be business as usual at Holden – other than the arrival of Mr Smith – as GM’s Australian outpost already has the new structure in place.

“We are already structured that way, in terms of being integrated into the global network and having a brand champion in Mike Simcoe, who is responsible for directing the brand,” she said.

“It is a global organisation and there are so many global projects that get allocated to different parts of the world depending on the expertise and the workflow… we are very much part of that.”

Ms Perry declined to comment on which global programs Holden is currently working on, but said the company “continues to maintain that capability” of developing vehicles from the ground up as it has for years with the home-grown Commodore.

“We have always done local work and global work in terms of development, which can be anything from the ground up to mid-cycle enhancements to new designs which then get handed over at a more advanced stage to another team,” she said.

The changes to GM’s global design arm are intended to make it more brand-focused, strengthening the each brand’s “message” across the model portfolio, and enable designers to “live the brand on a day-to-day basis”.

Further benefits for GM will include more cross-brand parts sharing, improved creativity and a clear, single purpose for each member of the design team.

GM vice president for global design Ed Welburn said the restructure “provides a foundation to build and grow the design language for each of our brands moving forward”.

“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.”

Chevrolet brand champion, executive director of North American exterior design and architecture strategy Ken Parkinson becomes executive director of global Chevrolet and GMC design.

Opel/Vauxhall brand champion and vice president of GM Europe design Mark Adams will relocate to GM’s design headquarters in Michigan and become executive director of global Cadillac and Buick design.

Buick/GMC brand champion and executive director of North American interiors and global cross-brand design David Lyon will relocate to Russelsheim to replace Mr Adams.

Cadillac brand champion and director for North American advanced design Clay Dean is promoted to the newly-created position of global advanced design director, in which he will be the “lead integrator and coordinator of all advanced design activity around the world”.

Vice president of GMIO design and brand champion for Chinese brands Wuling and Baojun Bryan Nesbitt will remain in his Shanghai-based role, as will Brazilian-based executive director of GM South America design Carlos Barba, director of global industrial design Teckla Rhoads and executive director of global design operations Teckla Rhoads.

All will report to Mr Welburn, who said: “Strengthening our advanced design organisation will allow us to help the company develop innovative new technologies and strategies to meet the future transportation needs of the global marketplace.”“One thing is clear: Success will require a variety of mobility solutions that are striking both in their execution and their efficiency.”

As with Mr Smith’s appointment, the changes to GM’s global design structure are effective from August 1.

The reshuffle follows the move taken at the same time last year, in which Mr Nesbitt was moved from his US-based role as executive director of North American exterior design and architecture strategy to his current role in China.

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