Last week's shuffle of General Motors' lead designers seems to set up a horse race to succeed Ed Welburn, GM's design chief for nearly a decade.
There's no indication Welburn, 61, is leaving any time soon -- insiders say he's highly regarded and is likely to stick around for a while.
But the race to succeed him will be watched closely. The post of design boss at GM is a vaunted one, dating back to the days of legendary Harley Earl, who became the automaker's first design chief in 1927. Welburn, who took the job in 2003, is just the sixth designer to hold the title.
Welburn rearranged his team so that they will have a more global and brand-specific focus. The changes take effect Aug. 1. Each has broad international experience and is now on the short list to become the seventh GM design chief. The contenders:
-- Mark Adams, 50, who oversees design for GM Europe, will move to GM's design center in Warren, Mich., to become executive director of design for Cadillac and Buick.
-- Dave Lyon, 43, now head of interior design for North America and the "brand champion" for Buick and GMC, heads to Russelsheim to lead design for GM Europe.
-- Clay Dean, 50, takes a newly created job, director of global advanced design, broadening his North American focus.
-- Ken Parkinson, 49, becomes executive director of global design for Chevrolet and GMC. He currently is in charge of North American exterior design.
-- Bryan Nesbitt, 43, is vice president of design for GM's international unit and will continue to be the lead designer for key markets such as China and India.
-- Mike Simcoe, 54, executive director for design at GM's international operations, will keep responsibility for Korea and Australia.