Ask General Motors Corp. executives which GM cars they'd be proud to see in their driveways, and almost always they reply "Corvette." Any others on their list? Ummm, let's see . . .

If there's one issue critics pound on relentlessly, it's GM's lack of design innovation. Its cars are, well, simply boring.

GM, once the unmatched styling leader, keeps saying "just wait, the stuff coming will unsocket your eyeballs." So you wait and your eyes glaze over.

GM President G. Richard Wagoner candidly tells reporters at the Geneva Motor Show that "I think we could do a better job" of shaping more desirable designs. And he points to the recent rash of concept vehicles, such as the Chevrolet SST retro pickup, as examples of where GM is heading.

He doesn't blame his design people, although he underscores that snappy styling alone does not make a car, citing Toyota's success despite its conservative designs. "Design and quality tradeoffs are real," he says.

Now, he adds, "We've dialed up our whole focus on design. Why? Because we've got more money to spend and we've got our mainstream vehicles re-engineered."

While Mr. Wagoner praises his design chief, Wayne Cherry, as being "a great brand guy," Mr. Cherry has several strikes against him that limit his input. For one, he's responsible only for North American design; he remains outside the loop on GM's all-powerful strategy board; and his team's designs must win final approval from the engineering side, which doesn't always appreciate fine art.

Now 62, Mr. Cherry is close to retirement. GM already is looking for his replacement. Who that is and how the job is shaped will go far toward determining GM's future design direction.