Back to the future: GM gets rid of VLEs
Doug Parks leads GM’s new executive chief engineers.
General Motors says it's moving away from a too-many-cooks team structure in its product development operation by naming one engineering executive the clear-cut overlord for each vehicle program.
But to GM old-timers, last week's news probably sounded a bit back-to-the-future.
GM said it has named a dozen "executive chief engineers" who are "totally responsible for their respective groups of vehicles from inception through production."
They report to Doug Parks , the new VP of product programs.
That setup, GM says, ends the current arrangement of a vehicle line executive --VLE in GM parlance -- sharing responsibility for a program with a line director and chief engineer.
But that sounds remarkably similar to the rationale GM used in setting up the original VLE structure 16 years ago.
At that time the VLE was seen as the top dog, with accountability for a program's punctuality and success.
A 1995 story in Automotive News detailed GM's plan to appoint 20 VLEs who would "shepherd models from cradle to grave." That came after some rocky launches of the Chevrolet Lumina and Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire. GM also faced criticism for too many look-alike models, a problem VLEs were supposed to fix.
This time, GM says, the new structure "eliminates redundancy and reduces complexity, enabling faster decision making and instilling clear accountability in the vehicle development process."