Swedish media are reporting today that Steve Mattin, Volvo's design director, is leaving the company. The departure marks the end of a four-year tenure during which time Mattin was responsible for designs including the 2010 XC60 and the highly controversial S60 Concept shown a this year's Detroit Auto Show.

The departure could signal a wave of changes at Volvo as Ford ramps up the intensity of its push to sell the brand. Despite serious talks with a number of potential buyers, however, Ford has released nothing indicating a sale is imminent. News of Mattin's exit from Volvo comes from Sweden's GP, which quotes Mattin, shortly after being hired on at Volvo in May 2005, as saying he would "stay [at Volvo] for the rest of my life." That sort of talk doesn't lend itself to an easy change in career path, especially immediately after an 18-year stint at Mercedes-Benz.

But perhaps the change-up is just another in the cycle of designer exits that has swept the industry in the past several months. Chris Bangle, BMW's famous, or to some eyes, infamous, designer for most of the last decade, left the industry altogether. Karim Habib, also from BMW, defected to Mercedes-Benz just a few weeks ago.

Even among the purely design-focused companies there have been changes, including the switch from Pininfarina to Stile Bertone by modern legend Jason Castriota. So perhaps Mattin's departure from Volvo is just a normal part of business in a depressed economy. But it could also be a hint at worse times to come.