Current Volkswagen Group design boss Walter Maria de Silva is set to retire at the end of the month, though he will continue his links with the automaker in an advisory role. The Italian designer has worked for VW for the past 17 years and been in charge of all the design teams at the automaker since 2007. The announcement comes amid VW’s ongoing diesel emissions cheating scandal, which looks to be expanding to include incorrectly stated CO2 and fuel consumption levels.
De Silva, 64, started his automotive design career at Fiat back in 1972 but left after three years to join Studio R. Bonetto in Milan. De Silva was head of the Industrial Design and Automobiles Area at the Instituto Idea in Turin from 1979 to 1986, after which he was recruited by Alfa Romeo where he would stay until 1998, when he first joined VW as the new head of design at Spanish brand SEAT.
Shortly after joining VW he was already designing cars for other group brands such as Audi and Lamborghini. In particular, his elegant style was applied on models like the previous-generation Audi A6 as well as the original A5 and R8. The A5, in particular, is described by de Silva as his “best” design. He was also responsible for Lamborghini’s awesome Miura concept of 2006.
Upon being promoted to the role of design boss for the entire group in ‘07, de Silva’s main focus was establishing and nurturing a common design culture across all brands, though with each brand retaining a certain level of autonomy.
“Walter de Silva epitomizes creativity and the Italian sense of beauty and style on the one hand and thoroughness, a systematic approach and discipline on the other,” VW CEO Matthias Müller said in a statement. “Walter de Silva succeeded in establishing a design culture and methodology across all group brands that is unique in our industry—at the same time, he was the driving force in preserving a high degree of creative autonomy for the brands and their design departments."
de Silva is the third high-profile designer to quit VW in recent months. In the summer, it was revealed that Luc Donckerwolke was set to leave his role as head of design at Bentley to join Hyundai. It turned out the Belgian designer, who has also run Lamborghini design in the past, would head up design at Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury brand.
And in September, it was revealed that legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro had finally quit Italdesgin Giugiaro, which he founded in 1968, and sold his remaining 9.9 percent stake in the design firm to VW which owned the other 90.1 percent. Giugiaro, together with his son Fabrizio, is expected to start a new design endeavor, possibly for an Asian automaker.