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Who's Where: Bryan Nesbitt becomes General Manager of Cadillac

Fri, 31 Jul 2009

Bryan Nesbitt, who until last week was General Motors' North American Vice President of Design, started his new role as general manager of the Cadillac brand on Monday, July 27. His appointment, which surprised many, is part of an effort to integrate design, marketing and advertising, which have always been intrinsically linked.

While this move marks a significant step change in the positioning of the new General Motors, which, under the direction of product czar Bob Lutz, has seen fit to promote a young designer into such a high level managerial position, it is a triumph not only for Nesbitt, 40, but for all designers: it is the first time that a designer has been promoted to one of the top executive roles at an automotive company.

According to a GM spokesperson, there are no plans to fill Nesbitt's recently vacated design role. Instead, Ed Welburn, Vice President of Global Design, "will manage both North America and global responsibilities which aligns design to the rest of the corporate structure".

Nesbitt, an Art Center College of Design graduate, began his career  at Chrysler following an internship at the automaker's now-defunct Pacifica Advanced Design center in Carlsbad, California. Credited with having designed the forward-thinking but retro-inspired PT Cruiser in 1996, Nesbitt went on to design the lightweight Composite Concept Vehicle (CCV) and worked on the Pronto Cruizer concept before being hired by General Motors as a Chief Designer for Chevrolet in 2001. His design aptitude enabled him to subsequently become the youngest design executive when he was appointed Executive Director of Body Frame Integral at General Motors in 2002.

Both acclaimed and criticized for developing models like the Pontiac Solstice, Cadillac BLS, Chevrolet HHR, Saturn Aura and Sky, and GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave SUVs during his tenure, the American born designer took on the role of Executive Director of Design at GME two years later, at just 33 years old. Under his direction, the company produced the Saab Aero X, Opel Antara and GTC concept cars, as well as the acclaimed Opel Insignia. He was promoted to Vice President of Design, North America, in 2007 and supervised the development of the Cadillac CTS sport wagon and Coupe concept, shown at the 2008 NAIAS.

Though Cadillac has been a very strong contender in the field of design throughout its history, Nesbitt's appointment - a substantial step for the American automotive giant who finally seems to be emerging from extreme financial difficulties - further reinforces the notion that design is clearly linked to the prosperity of an automaker; proof, if proof were needed, that design is the primary consideration of every automotive consumer. The emotional, aesthetic aspect of design is what ultimately leads vehicles out the showroom doors.

By Eric Gallina