DETROIT -- In his 14-year General Motors career, Bryan Nesbitt has overseen design at everything from Chevrolet and Cadillac to GM's Chinese joint-venture brands, Wuling and Baojun.
Now, he's in charge of Buick. And he seems to have the pedigree to lead design for GM's near-premium brand as it seeks to build its U.S. lineup and maintain its heavyweight status in China.
Nesbitt, 46, spent the last four years in China, where the roads swarm with Buicks -- it was the No. 4 brand there last year and will make a run at 1 million sales this year.
He's no stranger to the brand: In the mid-2000s, he led the design team that penned the Enclave, the handsome large crossover that GM executives have credited as the workhorse of the brand's comeback from near death in GM's 2009 bankruptcy.
He also knows Opel, having done a stint as director of design for GM Europe in the mid-2000s. Why does that matter? Because Buick's portfolio increasingly is influenced by Opel under GM's tri-continent strategy to leverage the two regional brands by selling nearly identical vehicles in Europe as Opels and in China and the U.S. as Buicks.
Buick continues to build out its U.S. portfolio, which was threadbare four years ago with just three nameplates. It soon will have six, with the addition of the Cascada convertible early next year. GM execs have hinted at more entries that target unfilled "white space" market niches. GM also signaled a potential flagship sedan when it showed the Avenir concept at the Detroit auto show in January.
Nesbitt shot to notoriety when he penned Chrysler's retro-styled PT Cruiser, which debuted in 2000 and went on to top more than 1 million in global sales. He joined GM in 2001 and led teams that designed the 2007 Saturn Aura, 2009 Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and 2013 Cadillac ATS.
His new job was one of several personnel moves atop GM's brands made recently by GM global design chief Ed Welburn. A few years ago, Welburn, 64, realigned his design teams to have a single focus on a specific brand.
Nesbitt replaces Andrew Smith, also 46, who has led global design for both Buick and Cadillac since September 2013. Smith remains executive director of Cadillac design globally. That will keep the Aussie and former head of Holden design busy: Cadillac plans to introduce eight new models by 2020.
Replacing Nesbitt as vice president of design for GM China is Ken Parkinson, 52, who most recently was executive director of design for Chevy trucks. He previously was head of design for GM's international operations in Shanghai, from 2007 to 2011.
John Cafaro, 60, is now executive director of Chevrolet globally. He previously had been in charge of Chevy cars, splitting leadership of the brand's design with Parkinson.
Cafaro has been with GM for nearly 40 years and was lead designer on the fifth-generation Corvette, which went on sale in 1997.
"The leadership structure continues to emphasize each of our global brands," a GM spokesman said.
The changes took effect June 1.