A who's-who primer of European designers

Some of the top designers at the Big 3 — including J Mays of Ford Motor Co., Trevor Creed of the Chrysler group and Anne Asensio of General Motors — have had ties to Europe. So it should be no surprise if GM’s next design chief has European roots.

Here’s a who’s who of the chief designers in Europe. Some of these names will not appear on GM’s short list to replace Wayne Cherry, who retires next year. But others may. And, as their resumes show, they are a well-traveled lot.

Henrik Fisker

Aston Martin Design Director

This Danish designer was poached from BMW Designworks by Ford Motor Co.’s Premier Automotive Group. Some of his most famous design work includes the Z07 concept and the BMW Z8 supercar driven in the most recent James Bond movie. Fisker has been tapped to design Aston Martin’s entry-level Porsche 911 fighter.

Thomas Plath

BMW Head of Advanced Design

Plath made significant contributions to the BMW Z9 concept shown at the 2000 Frankfurt and New York auto shows.

Peter Scheyer

Audi Design Head

Scheyer is responsible for the design of all series production cars and concept cars. He oversees about 150 employees at design cen-ters in Spain and California as well as Audi Design in Ingolstadt, Germany.

Chris Bangle

Director of Design, BMW

Formerly with General Motors

partners Opel and Fiat, Bangle moved to BMW in 1992. Before his tenure with BMW, he penned the Fiat Coupe and helped design the 145. As head of BMW Design, he was influential on the 7-series redesign and the Z9 concept. He designed the latest generation of BMW’s bread-and-butter 3-series and the asymmetric X-coupe shown at the 2001 Detroit auto show.

Jean Pierre Ploue

Director of Centre de Creation, Citroen

Ploue came to Citroen in 2000 after stints with Ford in Cologne, Germany; Volkswagen European Design in Sitges, Spain; and Renault in France. Ploue was recruited to revitalize Citroen following the PSA acquisition. His first Citroen concept, the hybrid-powered Osmose mini- van, debuted at the 2000 Paris show. His most recognizable works are the Renault Twingo, Clio and the 1994 Argos concept car.

Harm Lagaay

Chief Designer, Porsche

His credits include the design of the V-10 Carrera GT supercar, the mid-engine Boxster and the current generation 911. Lagaay started at Porsche in 1971, where he designed the 924. He moved to Ford’s Advanced Design Studio in 1977. Eight years later, he moved to BMW, only to return to Porsche in 1989. His other work includes the short-lived 968 and the 989 Porsche sport sedan.

Peter Pfeiffer

Head of Mercedes-Benz Design

His most recent work is the design of the Vision SLR concept, supercar sibling to the SL coupe, and the A-Class-based concept — the Vision SLA roadster. Pfeiffer joined DaimlerChrysler in 1968.

Murat Gunak

Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars

Gunak began his career at Mercedes-Benz in the late 1970s. He left in 1983 to take a position at the Ford Design Center in Cologne. He returned to Mercedes-Benz in 1986 but again left to take the chief designer position at Peugeot in 1994. While at the French automaker, he helped create a more aggressive design for projects such as the 206 supermini, the 705, and 106 and 206. He returned to Mercedes-Benz in 1998.

Humberto Rodriguez

Executive Vice President of Design, Fiat Auto S.p.A.

Rodriguez worked for the Volks- wagen group for more than 25 years in design and project engineering. He was at Audi from 1972 to 1989 and at Seat from 1989 to 1998. His influence can be seen in the Fiat Stilo that debuted at the Geneva show this year.

Chris Bird

Director of Design, Ford of Europe

Bird was part of the Audi AG design team J Mays headed in the early 1990s. In 1995, Bird became a chief designer at Audi in Ingolstadt and played a key role in developing Audi’s current models. Bird began his career as an interior designer at Ford’s Dunton, England, studio after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London in 1981. He designed the Ford FC5 fuel-cell concept that is based on the Focus and helped design the Pininfarina Start concept.

Geoff Upex

Director of Design, Land Rover

Upex started at Ogle Design in 1977 working on Leyland and Iveco trucks, and Jaguar and Austin Rover products. In 1983, he was named Rover Group chief designer, interiors. In 1995, he was named design and concept director for Rover cars, Land Rover, Mini and MG. When BMW sold Land Rover to Ford, it acquired Rover’s design studio, and with it came Upex. He is credited with the design of the new Mini.

Russell Carr

Chief Designer, Lotus

Under Carr, Lotus developed the mid-engine M250 concept, which was scheduled to launch this year. Because of the financial troubles with the struggling British nameplate, it won’t be produced in the foreseeable future.

Peter Stevens

Director of Product Design,

MG Rover

Noted for designing the McLaren F1 supercar, Jaguar’s XJR15 and the lesser Lotus Elan, Stevens was chosen in September 2000 by Rover to create a more performance-oriented image for MG cars. Stevens was one of the first graduates of the Royal College of Art.

Hans Seer

Director of Design, Opel

Seer has spent 33 years at Opel grooming young designers and penning memorable cars such as the Kadett and more recent cars including the Vectra, Omega and Corsa. In 1996, he was named head of the Opel Design Studio. He is the first European to hold that position.

Gerard Welter

Head of PSA Centre d’etude et Recherche, Peugeot

Welter joined Peugeot in 1960 and has been responsible for exterior design for several years. He led styling of the 205, 405 and 605 models. He is a racing enthusiast who designed the Peugeot 905 that won the 24 Hours at Le Mans race three times.

Patrick Le Quement

Senior Vice President,

Corporate Design, Renault

Renault’s revival began with the hiring of Le Quement from Volkswagen in 1987. He also worked for 17 years at Ford. He is the father of the Twingo, Scenic and Kangoo. More recently, he designed the Talisman concept that appeared at this year’s Frankfurt show and supervised the design of the well-received Avantime concept.

Hartmut Warkuss

Vice President Design, Volkswagen

Warkuss designed the Concept D that has moved VW’s eyes up-market. He also penned the more plebian Lupo. Warkuss joined the Mercedes-Benz design department in 1964, went to Ford of Germany two years later and to Audi in 1968. His first car was the Audi 100 coupe, followed by the Audi 80 sedan.

Ian Callum

Director of Design, Jaguar

Most recently, Callum penned the Jaguar R-coupe concept and had his say on Jaguar’s BMW 3-series fighter, the X-Type. Before that, he worked at Ford from 1979 to 1990, where he designed the Zig and Zag concept cars. Until 1999, when he was asked to come back to Ford as Jaguar design director, he was design chief for TWR Design. There, he helped design the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish.

Peter Horbury

Chief Designer, Volvo

Horbury joined Chrysler UK in 1974, where he worked on the Horizon and Alpine. He then moved to Ford to join the Sierra design team. Next, Horbury became a design consultant to Volvo. He then set up a design division at MGA, the engineering and prototype company in Coventry, England. Ten years ago, after becoming design director at Volvo, Horbury began changing the Swedish automaker’s styling identity. Horbury doesn’t work while on planes — he’s afraid someone might steal his ideas. He has been creating a new look at Volvo starting with the C70 and S60. And he has been the leader on Volvo’s recent safety and performance concept cars.

Tags: Design Europe

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