PAG's new design boss will bring people together to make sure they stay apart
VOLVO DESIGN boss Peter Horbury has been named executive director of design for Ford's Premier Automotive Group - a new position. Horbury, 52, spent 11 years as Volvo design head, transforming Volvo's look in the process. He will now oversee the design strategy for Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo. Automotive News Europe's Chris Wright spoke to him in Gothenburg, Sweden.
What is your new role?
I will report directly to Richard Parry-Jones [worldwide global vehicle product director] and J Mays [head of design, Ford Motor Co.]. Hopefully I can help put design higher up the agenda at PAG to a point where I am on all product boards and meetings. It is also important in the quest for economies of scale with platform sharing. But it will also be important to maintain the individual identities of the brands. If you like, I will be bringing people together to stay apart - as designers we have to be the keepers of the identity.
Designers can be very possessive about their work. How will you manage the relationship with chief designers Ian Callum at Jaguar, Geoff Upex at Land Rover and Henrik Fisker at Aston Martin?
If I am accountable to the board of PAG then I have to make sure I am happy with the designs that are coming from each of the companies. But I don't see myself interfering with what Ian, Geoff or Henrik are doing. All the guys are very capable designers. I see my role more as setting the strategy and philosophy for the future, checking that we are achieving what we need to achieve. I don't intend to take over anyone's work. Mine will be more of a big picture role, an overview that will help PAG develop as a group.
How will this strategy develop?
If PAG vehicles are to share more platforms and components in the future, it is my job to see what we can happily share and what we shouldn't share. Economies of scale are important but what we don't want to do is to cause confusion over our common platforms. That is why individual identity is important.
In 11 years at Volvo you have changed the perception of the brand without losing the image, particularly in terms of safety. How will the other brands develop?
I don't feel the need to shock people out of their idea of what a car should be. The development of styling should be evolutionary, retaining elements that people will recognize. It's nothing to do with retro styling. I think you should remind rather than repeat. Heritage should have an influence on modern design. Jaguar, for example, is British, but not the British of Le Mans 1955. Britain is now about architecture, fashion and music. There is no reason why car companies in the UK need to be stuck in the past. The new Range Rover is a very good example of the development of a very good idea. Jaguar needs to build on its heritage of sportiness and elegance. People expect things out of certain makes and you have to maintain the identity.
Would you like to see design and engineering working more closely together?
At Volvo we have always had our own engineers in the design department. Designers create the styling and engineers create the technical competence. We even built a bridge between design and engineering departments at Gothenburg to make communication easier. Before there was a tunnel and a lot of twisting corridors so [it was harder] to speak directly to each other.
What problems do you foresee with Ford brands moving upmarket and Jaguar and Volvo moving down to compete directly with them? Will they start to compete in terms of sales and volume?
I don't see any problems. If people start to buy Volvos and Jaguars instead of Blue Oval cars then this will be good business, particularly if those cars are all on the same platform. We can make more money by selling a higher margin model.
Will you retain your role as design director at Volvo?
I don't think I can give my all to the new job if I am still at Volvo. I will be based at PAG's design studio in Soho, London, so I will be looking to appoint a new director at Volvo. Until then I have to combine the jobs.
Is there a future for the Jaguar F-type?
I really do not know. The project is on the shelf. But the great thing about sports car designs is that they do not really date. They can be modified and updated very easily.