General Motors' next step in integrating brand-related activities in Europe will be a European design center in Rüsselsheim, Germany, that opens in January.
The center will lead future design of Opel, Saab and Vauxhall models. It is similar to other GM regional design centers in Brazil, China, Korea and Australia.
The center will incorporate GM Europe's former Swedish-based advanced design center.
But Rüsselsheim won't be the only GM design facility in Europe. Saab will establish a separate brand center in Sweden, which will house designers, engineers and marketing specialists.
"This will safeguard retaining the Saab DNA," said Bryan Nesbitt, executive director of GM Europe design, who will also oversee the Swedish facility.
The other exception to the integration is GM's advanced studio in Coventry, England.
"I will report directly to the GM North American advanced design studio in Warren, Michigan," said Simon Cox, director of the Coventry studio. Almost 80 percent of Cox's design work is on future Cadillacs.
GM Europe's new design center will be located in the former Opel Life visitor center on the same campus as Rüsselsheim assembly plant. The 5-year-old building includes a historic car collection and exhibition rooms.
"It leverages Opel heritage from the Rüsselsheim city center with a modern and spacious environment," Nesbitt said. "It puts us at the epicenter GM Europe's engineering and marketing activities, which all have the same [regional] organization structure."
Nesbitt's team has 300 designers and supporting specialists, including 20 design-related engineers.
GM sees design as a strategic strength.
"We work in a company where leadership understands the importance of design," said Ed Welburn, GM's vice president of design. "So we will continue to hire more designers where other departments have fewer staff."
Known for his organization talents, Welburn wants to improve the design processes through better communication.
"We will manage our global design operations as one company, and let the regional design centers communicate with each other," Welburn said. "But we won't make the global principles too rigid and will be more flexible toward regional cultures."