For many years, the U.S. 'design' studios of foreign automakers did little more than approve color and trim palettes for the overseas parent or create the occasional wacky concept vehicle.
From time to time, a U.S.-envisioned Mazda Miata or a Lexus coupe would emerge into production. But even production vehicles that were meant primarily for the U.S. market, such as the Toyota T100, tended to come out of the home-market studio.
In general, American designs were too far-out and exuberant for home-office tastes.
But now, foreign automakers are handing their American centers the lead in designing entire vehicles from scratch - especially vehicles that will sell mostly in America. Among recent products that were almost entirely North American creations: the Nissan Xterra, Honda Accord coupe, Acura 3.2TL, and BMW X5 and 3 series.
Recent concept vehicles such as the Mitsubishi SSU and Isuzu VX-O2 also were created solely by the U.S. design arms.
'We're seeing a lot more faith in the California studios,' said Chuck Pelly, president of BMW's Designworks/USA design arm in Newbury Park, California. 'We have matured, and the package engineers and designers have gained more experience.'
The following projects highlight how New American Manufacturers have expanded their U.S. automaking resources.