The usual path to the top in the car industry is through the money divisions – accounting, finance, marketing.
Sometimes, it’s engineering.
It’s almost never design.
But there are always exceptions to every rule.
Bryan Nesbitt is perhaps best-known in the industry for designing the Chrysler PT Cruiser ("It's still being sold!" he told me proudly when we chatted during a coffee break at the General Motors Product and Technology media bunfight last Tuesday.)
Nesbitt was recruited to run Chevrolet design, did a stint in Europe, returned a couple of years ago, and was recently named vice president in charge of Cadillac.
"Tom Gale may be the only one I can think of who went from design to general management," Nesbitt noted, referring to his former boss and mentor at Chrysler.
Nesbitt points out that Cadillac's engineers, production, sales and financial people have more than done their job over the past ten years or so; the recurring theme of this Product and Technology event was: how do we get people to consider GM products again?
"We need a consistent design message, for the cars, the advertising, the dealerships, the web site," said Nesbitt.
Perhaps the talents of a designer are just what the doctor ordered.
At forty years of age, Nesbitt is considerably younger than his current customer base. He sports more gel in his stylish coiffure than the entire demographic cohort.
But maybe that's the point. If Cadillac customers don't get younger, their average age will soon, in Car and Driver magazine's famous phrase, be 'deceased'.