General Motors product development head Bob Lutz does not seem bothered at the loss of world leadership to Toyota after 75 years.

"We will regain leadership for good reason," he told journalists during a regular visit to a product development centre in Brazil. "GM continues to grow outside the US. Besides, we hold a strong position in China and our market share over there is four-fold that of Toyota", he said.

He declined to answer questions from just-auto on the future possibility of GM ending up acquiring Chrysler from private equity company Cerberus, a partner of GMAC, GM's financial arm.

He preferred instead to discuss freezing expenditures at the main GM development centres (in the US and Germany) and investing more in Brazil and Korea instead.

"We have concluded that it saves a large amount of money, besides relieving workload at the larger centres and better distributing it to different countries. We have really proved to be a global corporation in every way. In spite of continuing to invest mammoth amounts, this rationale already allows us to claim to be the automaker with the smaller percentage of expenditure versus revenues."

Lutz did not spare praise for the Brazilian engineering team's creativity, now they're in charge of all future medium-size pick-ups and SUVs for GM, besides working in close collaboration on the development of new compact models in Korea.

A Brazilian engineer has already taken the executive seat at GMDAT's design center in Korea.

"Those who work with counted money are normally more creative," Lutz joked.

Detroit has approved doubling the size of its São Caetano do Sul centre, in greater São Paulo. The number of designers has climbed from 85 to 160 in the last two years and, by 2008, the number of development engineers will rise from 660 to 1,200.

Fernando Calmon