Asian carmakers are starting to realize how important it is to have the best design.
Hyundai, which started out using the best of Turin, Italy, to design cars, is now renewing the emphasis on great design.
China is starting to see how cutting-edge design will separate the many companies fighting for survival in that market.
I was saddened by the recent death of my friend Chuck Jordan, retired vice president of design at General Motors. I learned a lot from my long association with him. But the thing I particularly loved was his passion for design.
After he retired and moved back to California, Jordan started a new career as a teacher, spending time at a local high school to impart the skill and passion that he knew so well. Jordan was as excited teaching his new charges as he was when he saw the latest Ferrari.
We need that passion back in the car business. Jordan had a lot of fans -- and detractors -- because he couldn't stand folks who didn't understand the passion for cars.
There are too many today who don't have that passion. It doesn't cost any more to design a great car than an ugly car. The trick is to know the difference and to fight for the great design.
The pendulum seems to swing back and forth from design with passion to design that has too many fathers and mothers and needs the commitment of designers -- not folks who like to think of themselves as "car guys" but don't have a clue about great design or, for that matter, engineering.
The Koreans, Japanese and now the Chinese realize that they must have the talent and that that talent needs the training to compete globally. It may be easier to compete in China, but even there, there are plenty of global players offering the local market great-looking products.
Chuck Jordan, following Bill Mitchell and Harley Earl, had a passion that should be a prerequisite for every designer who hopes to lead a car company.
The real trick, Jordan believed, is to keep everyone else out of the design studios.
Chuck Jordan was one of a kind. I will miss him.