Despite rumors suggesting the contrary, General Motors Corp. North American design chief Wayne K. Cherry says he won't leave GM before hitting the company's mandatory retirement age of 65 in 2002.

"I'll be here until I retire, until I'm 65," says Mr. Cherry, who turns 63 in September. "I can remember the day I drove in the Mound gate entrance to (GM's) Technical Center (in Warren, MI) in my '55 Chevy. And this business is just as exciting today as it was then."

But it probably wasn't as busy. In 2000, GM's design studios cranked out at least one concept car for every nameplate, plus the Triax and Precept hybrids. Mr. Cherry hopes to maintain that pace. "It was a huge workload. But I think it's important that all the divisions and their brand design centers develop a concept for their brand vision and direction pretty much on a year-to-year basis."

Mr. Cherry has been in his current post since 1992. The title of design chief is one that isn't passed on often. Mr. Cherry is only the fifth person to head GM design in 70 years. So whoever is selected as Mr. Cherry's successor likely will shape the design of GM's vehicles for at least a decade, and probably will be given global responsibilities rather than only North American duties.

It's unknown if GM already has top candidates in mind to begin the grooming process. But the automaker recently hired away Anne Asensio, a respected designer from Renault SA. Ms. Asensio will be responsible for keeping GM's domestic brands distinct, a role Mr. Cherry presently handles, when she joins GM this summer.