In a sign of its growing regional independence from headquarters in Germany, Volkswagen Group of America has named a Brazilian veteran VW executive as the brand's new head of design — and in a first — for both North and South America.
Jose Carlos "JC" Pavone, 45, who is already the head of design for VW in South America, will add North American design to his portfolio, splitting time between the brand's design studios in Brazil and California, VW of America said Monday.
Pavone joined VW in his native Brazil in 2002 and has worked during his 21-year career with the automaker in Germany and the U.S. as well, including a five-year stint at the automaker's design studio in Belmont, Calif., in 2011-16.
Among his creations for the North American market were the 2011 Jetta and 2012 Passat sedans. More recently in South America, he spearheaded design for the Nivus and Taigo compact crossovers — the first VWs to be designed in South America and sold in Europe — and the Virtus sedan.
In a written statement, Pavone said his experience "being born in Sao Paulo, working at HQ in Wolfsburg for seven years, five years at the Design Center California and seven years as design director at VW South America — gives me the right understanding about the trends and requirements from each region.
"Communication with the design headquarters in Wolfsburg is key to the perfect balance between regional preferences and Volkswagen DNA," he said.
VW Group of America CEO Pablo Di Si told Automotive News the appointment of a head of design for the region was a step toward making the brand more relevant and increasing its share of the North American market. The group has a long-term goal, which Di Si inherited from previous CEO Scott Keogh, of achieving a combined 10 percent market share across all of its brands in North America.
"I don't need to fight anybody in Germany to get more done here," Di Si said. "They want us to get more done. I want to be extremely clear with that. They want us to do more. But there are always two sides of the coin, right? That gives you the responsibility, and it's up to me and to my team to bring proposals to the table."
Di Si said having a head of design for the region — one who is experienced with working virtually and cooperatively with headquarters as Pavone is — would speed development of new vehicles tailored to meet customer needs here.
"I need to maintain a long-term vision where the industry is going, and what products do we need," Di Si said. "But there's no tomorrow if there's no today."