Volkswagen’s head of design, Walter de Silva, announces retirement

Volkswagen will soon be losing a key figure in the research and developmental team of their entire corporation as the Volkswagen Group announced Walter de Silva’s statement for retirement.

de Silva, 64, has been Volkswagen AG’s head of group design and is responsible for designing some of the company’s most iconic cars, such as the Audi R8 and the A5.

He was born in Italy in 1951 and his tenure at the Volkswagen Group began as far back as 1998, when he became the head of design for SEAT. Following his success at the Spanish-based, Volkswagen-owned automaker, four years later, he was appointed the head of design at Audi, Lamborghini, and SEAT, following in the footsteps of Peter Schreyer. He was officially made the head of design for the entire Volkswagen Group in 2007.

Before linking up with Volkswagen however, his career first began at the Fiat Design Centre in Turin in 1972 and even held a position at Alfa Romeo, beginning 1986, where he remained the company’s head of design until he joined Volkswagen in 1998.

de Silva won’t be separating from the company completely just yet as he said he’ll continue collaborating with the automaker as an advisor on the corporation’s board.


Wolfsburg, 2015-11-06

Walter Maria de Silva takes retirement

• Head of Group Design established common design culture across all brands while
retaining creative autonomy of each individual brand

Walter Maria de Silva (64), Head of Group Design, is retiring with effect from the end of November. De Silva assumed design responsibility for all passenger car brands within the Volkswagen Group in February 2007. Walter de Silva will continue his links with the Group in an advisory capacity.

Walter Maria de Silva was born in Lecco (Italy) on February 27, 1951 and joined the Volkswagen Group 17 years ago when he became Head of the SEAT Design Centre in 1998. He was put in charge of the design of the Audi brand group, including the brands Audi, Lamborghini and SEAT, in 2002. His new design language with Audi was epitomised by the 6th generation of the Audi A6 and Audi A5 Coupé. He was appointed Head of Group Design at Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft in 2007. Walter de Silva saw the main focus of his work as design chief in establishing and nurturing a common design culture across all brands, which nevertheless allows each brand to retain a high degree of creative autonomy.

The CEO of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, Matthias Müller, paid tribute to Walter de Silva’s work with these words: “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.” Acknowledging de Silva’s definitive achievements for Volkswagen, Müller said: “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.”

The outstanding vehicles created by de Silva include the Alfa 156 (1997) and 147 (2001), the Volkswagen up!, the Polo and the Golf 6 and 7, the Audi R8 and the Audi A5, about which de Silva said that it was “the most beautiful car” he had ever designed.

Walter de Silva received numerous design awards for his work, including the “Design Prize of the Federal Republic of Germany 2010,” the highest official distinction awarded for design in Germany, for the design of the Audi A5. He received the “Compasso d’Oro” (Golden Compass), one of the most prestigious design awards in Italy, in 2011. An international expert panel described Walter de Silva as the “undisputed main protagonist of Italian design” and awarded him the prize for a career spanning over forty years.

De Silva began his professional career at the Fiat Design Centre in Turin in 1972. He joined Studio R. Bonetto in Milan in 1975. De Silva was Head of the Industrial Design and Automobiles Area at the Instituto Idea in Turin from 1979 to 1986. After a short stint working for “Trussardi Design Milano,” he switched to Alfa Romeo in 1986, where he was Head of Design until 1998. De Silva established a new design philosophy of the brand with the Alfa Romeo 156 (1997).

– By: Chris Chin

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Chris Chin

Chris Chin is the Editor-In-Chief of egmCarTech and is a regular contributor to Automobile Magazine.

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