INTERVIEW: GM Europe VP design Mark Adams
Mark Adams is General Motors Europe vice president of design. Simon Warburton caught up with him at this week's Detroit Auto Show before Adams met GM CEO Dan Akerson for an executive conference with the leadership team.
SW: "How has Opel/Vauxhall design changed during the past few years?"
MA: "Opel takes design very seriously. The design boss used to report into [an] engineering function, that reported into [the] vice president of engineering. A few years ago when Bob Lutz was around - design became an equal partner.
"So I am a peer with engineering, sales and marketing and that shows the level of respect design has within the organisation."
SW: "What support do you have for design within GM Europe?"
MA: "I am given very good freedom to do what I have to do. All of our recent cars [show] how important design is."
SW: "Can you give some design highlights of that importance?"
MA: "The Meriva is a good example. If we were not design-led, we could never have taken the risk with a car like the Meriva. It just would not have happened.
"It breeds momentum. The Insignia was a a really strong catalyst for that momentum. When you look at where we came from - from the Vectra to the Insignia, it was like night and day. Some of the things we asked the manufacturing guys to do with the Insignia blew them away."
SW: "Do you attach importance to emotion within design or are you more hard-headed?"
MA: "I certainly talk about emotion a lot when it comes to the vehicles. I use a chart that has the head and the heart. Powertrain, fuel economy, does it tick my need box?
"But if it does not tug at your heart strings, you are a commodity."
SW: "How tough have the past few years been with everything GM has been through?"
MA: "It is very important we repair the Opel/Vauxhall brand from what it was. We are under no illusions - it is going to take a long time to build back up. That is why Insignia was done.
"I said we have to create a car that will shock people questioning - 'wow, is that an Opel or a Vauxhall?'"
SW: "Does that involve a repositioning of the Opel/Vauxhall brand?"
"We have not got aspirations to be a premium brand, but we want some 'premiumness' that gives people that value relative to the vehicle."
SW: "Did design take a back seat during the recent uncertain period?"
MA: "When we work on something, we are three to four years away from when we deliver it. When we [were] in that situation, there was a pretty heavy cloud about the uncertainty - about who was going to be the owners.
"We did not miss one timing or finish deadline and we produced the best stuff we have done in that period."