General Motors designers are being challenged to rein in flights of fancy and focus on the critical elements of their projects.
'I am rigorous, and that is not what designers like,' says Anne Asensio, the 37-year-old design executive hired from Renault SA in May 2000.
She was handed the key job of ensuring that each GM brand develops and maintains a distinct image.
'Management of creativity is very important,' Asensio said during an interview during the Detroit auto show. 'You have to keep focused on where you want to go, and then do it again.'
Considered the heir apparent to Renault design chief Patrick Le Quement before she left the French automaker, Asensio is a potential candidate to replace GM design chief Wayne Cherry, 63, when he retires. Asensio is one of seven executive directors who report to Cherry.
At Renault, Asensio rose to fame with the Scenic concept vehicle in 1991 that led to the production of the Megane Scenic, as well as redesigns for the Renault Twingo and Clio small cars.
But Asensio says her first goal at GM is to do American design, not European design. The difference, she says, is that American design is more Protestant - concrete and efficient. 'The issue in the U.S. is, it works,' she says.
She said design in France is influenced by the Roman Catholic culture. 'Presentation, relationship, the need to organize a philosophy is very important,' Asensio says. 'Europe is a region for luxury. You have to sell ideas to a king; you have to make it look good.'
While GM's design department has become strong within the organization over several decades, Asensio wants to push it to work even closer with other departments - a cross-organization culture she says is one of the strengths of Renault.
This year's crop of concept cars marks the first time engineering was included from the beginning, she says.
'Design has to be more than intuitive,' Asensio says. 'When you start to explain the reasons behind what you create, it becomes rational. That is good for design.'