SHANGHAI — Hyundai brand's new global design chief is a British-born Volkswagen veteran who says he's open to "radical" changes in the Korean marque's next-generation design language as it prepares for electrification and autonomous driving.
The design overhaul may even require rethinking the necessity of sedans.
Simon Loasby, who had been vice president of Hyundai's design team in China, took over last week as head of the Hyundai Styling Group at the Hyundai Design Center in South Korea.
Loasby, speaking with Automotive News before the announcement, said one of his main assignments will be creating a successor look to the Sensuous Sportiness design language rolling out across Hyundai's lineup.
Sensuous Sportiness, visible in the Le Fil Rouge four-door coupe concept shown at last year's Geneva auto show, is also embodied by the redesigned Sonata sedan arriving this fall.
The critical project that Loasby's team will take on soon is asking, "OK, where does that take us next?" Loasby said, referring to the current design look. "If this generation is Sensuous Sportiness, do we carry on with that? Is that still relevant in five years? Or does it need to take a directional or radical step change?"
Loasby said he doesn't have an answer yet. But he's not afraid to think outside the box about Hyundai's products.
"Do we need conventional sedans anymore?" asks Loasby, 51. "A serious question: How many more petrol-engine, diesel-engine cars do we need?
"These are fundamentals we'll get into for the next generations of our high-volume products."
Future designs will have to accommodate fast-changing trends in technology, he said.
"What excites me about the new job is the whole move toward EV platforms, autonomy, drones, robotics," Loasby said. "What's next — that will be the challenge for us."
Loasby said he will need to start working on the new look soon for it to be ready for the next-generation Sonata, which is expected in about five years.
Loasby will oversee Hyundai brand design and report to SangYup Lee, who leads Hyundai and Genesis design as head of the Hyundai Design Center, and to Luc Donckerwolke, who is in charge of Hyundai, Genesis and Kia as chief design officer of Hyundai Motor Group.
Loasby joined Hyundai as director of China design in 2017. Before that, he was director of design for Volkswagen Group China for nine years. He started his design career in 1991 and worked at Bentley and Rolls-Royce before moving to Germany with Volkswagen and moving to China.
He has a master's degree in vehicle design from the Royal College of Art in London and studied mechanical engineering at the University of London.