Other Japanese automakers have been putting emphasis on the role of design during the past few years.
Even before the start of his Nissan Revival Plan, then-Nissan Motor Co. COO, and now CEO, Carlos Ghosn hired Japanese native Shiro Nakamura from Isuzu Motors Ltd. to be Nissan's head of design. Nakamura, who is U.S.-educated, became the first Nissan design director to hold the title of senior vice president.
Under Rolf Eckrodt, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. brought in Olivier Boulay to head its design efforts. Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. President Kyoji Takenaka named Andreas Zapatinas to take charge of the design of Subaru cars.
Boulay had been the chief designer of the Subaru Legacy, which taught him not only about the styling sensibilities of the Japanese market but also how to operate effectively within a Japanese company.
The French native's career also took him to car companies in France and Italy before he joined Daimler-Benz AG in Sindelfingen, Germany. He later was general manager of the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Center of Japan.
Zapatinas joined Fuji Heavy last year, after working for Alfa Romeo, BMW, Fiat and Pininfarina. The native of Greece also taught at the Art Center College of Design.