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News of  May 09, 2000


GM Hires Top Renault Designer
WARREN, Mich. - The vehicle designer instrumental in helping to create the style associated with the Renault Car Company will join General Motors Corp. in a key design leadership position.

Anne Asensio, 37, currently the third-ranked designer at Renault and director of medium car design at the French automaker, has been named a director at GM, reporting to Design Vice President Wayne Cherry. She will be responsible for keeping each of GM's domestic brands distinctive.

"GM's goal is to be auto industry's innovation leader and the addition of Anne Asensio gives us a unique global perspective to our domestic brands," Cherry said. "Our recent portfolio of 10 concept cars signals this new direction. Going forward, half of our new products will either create a new segment or totally redefine an existing segment."

Asensio was widely believed to be next in line when Renault's renowned design leader Patrick Le Quement steps aside. It was her 1991 Scenic concept car unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show that became the basis for successful Megane Scenic. That concept has become a very popular car in its own right, becoming the first non-British car to be the top-seller in England, and raising the company's 1998 market share by nearly 2 percent in France. She was also responsible for Renault's redesigned Clio and Twingo, a wildly popular French minicar. Those vehicles have largely defined the French automaker's style and helped boost sales and earnings, and in 1997 they helped her win recognition from Automotive News as "The Automotive Woman of the Year."

Asensio relishes her new challenge at GM and the center stage design has been given by top GM management. "Renault is in a great position, and it has taken us 10 years to get to this point," Asensio said from her home near Paris. "But I'm ready for a change, for the adventure of it." Asensio's approach to design starts with the interior. "Most of the time, you know, we put the problem of design in the wrong direction," she said. "For me, I think people can be different at different times of the day. I try to find more interesting ways for a person to use the vehicle."

Asensio has become somewhat of a media darling in European automotive publications for her prominent post at the French automaker. Very few women are in design management positions, and some automotive journalists attribute the success of Asensio's designs to having a woman's touch.

"For me, it is a question of personality, not sex," Asensio said. "Maybe as a woman I have a different way of designing, but I don't think so. You cannot look at a piece of furniture and guess whether it was designed by a male or a female. "Perhaps being a woman does make a difference in managing designers. The main thing is to establish a very creative environment. I need to understand how they work."

Asensio is no stranger to Detroit, having spent a year at American Motors Corp. within its Jeep studios as one of Renault's designers working jointly with AMC to revamp the Wrangler. She also worked on the ill-fated JJ project, a joint effort between Renault and Chrysler to create an entry-level Jeep( product. But the bulk of her work has been in the French design studios of Renault, where she has worked since earning degrees from the Ecole Nationale Superiore des Arts Appliques et Metier d'Arts in Paris. She also studied at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit in 1987.

Asensio is married to another Renault designer, Gerard Asensio, 57, who recently retired. They met while sharing an office at Renault. They have one child.

(May 8, 2000)


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