Is the ''aero'' shape in automobiles the wave of the future? And if so, how slippery will cars become? Specifically, what will the automobiles of tomorrow look like?
Irvin W. Rybicki has been boss of the GM design staff for nearly six years, ever since August 1977, when he moved into the seat occupied by William L. Mitchell for 20 years. Before that, Harley J. Earl had directed the styling crew for 30 years.
Thus, in a half century the design of GM cars had been under the overall direction of two individuals. That will probably never happen again. In contrast to his predecessors, Mr. Rybicki cannot remain on the job longer than nine years because that's when he bumps up against the mandatory retirement age of 65.
Like Messrs. Mitchell and Earl before him, Mr. Rybicki wields enormous clout in the US auto industry because he heads up the world's largest design organization of nearly 1,300 persons. And while he may not have the visible flair of a Bill Mitchell, he nonetheless knows what he wants. And he has his own style and way of doing things.
Soon after he took over the job, for example, he shook up the GM design staff by consolidating all design functions under one person and all engineering activities under someone else. Up to then, the design operation was fragmented.
''We had more people in this building at the time Bill Mitchell left,'' Mr. Rybicki says. ''We've reduced the forces in other areas, but we haven't touched the creative arm of our business at all.
''We've dropped some clerks that weren't necessary and put in some graphic consoles in all our rooms, which speeds up the process and gives us more time for creativity. Too, we're making technological changes. We're looking at computer graphics, where we deal with color, so that we can see the vehicle in two dimensions on the screen in color.
''Hopefully that will save a lot of time in the rooms and give us more time for creativity.''
The following is an interview with the director of the world's largest automotive-design staff:
Can you hold on to good talent these days?
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