GM’s Design Cries Echo Throughout All of Detroit

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Even though we were on GM‘s dime visiting the Chicago Auto Show, the whole “oh man, we’re totally screwed if we don’t start making with the better design” feeling seems pretty universal throughout all the North American car makers. Case in point, Business Week‘s article, “Detroit Needs Design,” which took a look at the AutoWeek Design Forum, whose conference theme this year was “Design for Success.” The story asks a good question about the theme, “who designs for failure?” but the whole idea behind the thing is understandable. Here’s from the close:

This year, the AutoWeek Design Forum ended with a speech by Charles Hughes, former CEO of the Land Rover and Mazda North-American branches and now branding strategy consultant. With an audience of design executives in front of him, Hughes decided to take no prisoners. Aimed at the American car industry, his frank remarks were sometimes harsh: “Unfortunately, many of Detroit’s brands live in commodity hell. A position earned over decades and an image that will not easily be shed. Now what are the odds that the three companies in the most trouble in the auto industry all reside in one city? Is there something in the water? A death wish? Or is it the refusal to see things as they are that keep them on the slow-and now not so slow-slide into oblivion?”