GM Design: Lyon Out at Opel, Buick and Cadillac Boss Adams to Assume Duties Temporarily
One month ago, we reported on GM designer David Lyon’s imminent move to become head of design at Opel in Germany. Lyon was responsible for Buick and GMC design, GM’s interior design, and “global cross brand design.” Last week, Lyon’s tenure with GM came to an abrupt end. The circumstances suggest that his exit was neither amicable nor the result of careful planning on either side. We understand that Lyon was escorted from GM premises on Thursday. An e-mail issued by Ed Welburn, GM Vice President of Global Design, basically stated, “Effective immediately, David Lyon is no longer an employee of General Motors Corporation.”
The manner of his departure is unprecedented at GM Design, and it suggests a deep and sudden personal rift between Lyon and Welburn. What it doesn’t suggest, however, is that Lyon preferred to flee GM rather than being relegated to leading Opel’s design department. In fact, his preparations to move to Rüsselsheim, Germany, were well underway, and sources tell us he was passionate about leaving his mark in the Old World. Last week, Lyon threw a well-attended farewell party and was the subject of an official ceremony organized by Welburn.
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What will happen to Opel design now, bereft of its new design chief who was supposed to take over on August 1? Opel officially confirms that Lyon has left GM, and that Mark Adams will remain its design chief for an interim period until a successor is found. The events don’t affect Adams’s move back to Detroit to lead Buick and Cadillac design. As of this moment, the search for a replacement is on at GM, and given the importance of this job, we doubt the company will look for an outside replacement. From within Opel, the names Friedhelm Engler, Malcolm Ward, and Liz Wetzel come to mind, but they have been passed over by Welburn and Adams before. “It is a bitter and undeserved situation for Opel,” an insider says. And it will take a long time before the dust settles at GM.
By Jens Meiners