Chinese cars are undergoing a visible transformation. Designers from Germany, Italy, the UK, and other countries with a rich automotive history deserve much of the credit for this transformation. Let’s look at some of them.

Peter Horbury, born in the UK, began his career at a local Chrysler branch, but his first major achievements were with Volvo. He was the one who successfully combined the brand’s distinctive angularity with a sporty silhouette in Volvo 480ES. The signature “shoulders” of the S80 and XC90 models were also his creations. In 2010, Geely acquired Volvo Cars, and the British designer significantly contributed to shaping the brand’s overall style. The radiator grille with concentric rounded pentagons is his brainchild.

All Geely models that have been launched until recently were developed with Horbury. This includes Lynk & Co models, which served as the basis for the electric vehicles of the new premium brand Zeekr. In 2021, the designer moved to Lotus, also owned by Geely, where he oversaw the development of the first electric crossover Lotus, Eletre, among other models. Peter Horbury passed away this year at the age of 73.

Lotus Eletre R model

Spefan Sielaff has taken over from Horbury as the Vice President of Global Design at Geely Holding. He works in Gothenburg, Sweden, where one of the Geely Design studios is situated. Born in Munich, Sielaff had been working for Audi and Volkswagen since the 1980s, primarily focusing on interiors. He also was employed by Mercedes-Benz, where he led the interior design center. Moreover, Sielaff served as Bentley’s design director, which bodes well for Geely’s future.

Geely Monjaro model

Chris Bangle is the first American to lead BMW style center. Almost all BMW models from the late 1990s, including the first BMW X5 crossover, were created under his leadership. In 2009, Bangle announced his retirement from automotive design. However, his 2014 consultancy role in developing the design strategy for Changan, a Chinese brand, marked his return to the industry. Today, Changan European Design Center is based in Turin, with the Chris Bangle Associates studio located nearby.

Hakan Saraçoğlu was born in Turkey, studied in California, started his design career at Ford in Germany, and then joined Porsche. His portfolio includes the 918 Spyder, Boxster, and Cayman, as well as the 911 GT2.

In 2012, the Chinese state-owned company Chery appointed Saraçoğlu as its design director. The results were immediate — the models significantly improved in appearance. However, Saraçoğlu briefly left Chery to work on the Enovate electric car produced by Zhejiang Dianka Automobile Technology Co. Ltd. In September 2021 Hakan returned to Chery in Germany, now serving as Vice President of Design for the Jetour and Karry brands.

Enovate ME7 model

Kevin Rice started his career at Mazda, working on the RX-8 rotary coupe and the second generation of the renowned MX-5 roadster. He later collaborated with BMW, with the 4 Series coupe being one of his notable works. The British designer spent nearly a year and a half working for Chery. Although his career there was brief, he managed to influence the design of the premium brand Exceed, with the signature clean lines being attributed to Mr. Rice. In 2020, he moved on to what is arguably one of the most esteemed roles in the design industry — becoming the creative director of Pininfarina. However, he has since stepped down from that position as well.

Exeed RX model

Giles Taylor, born and educated in England, started his career with French Citroen, before returning to his hometown Coventry to work for Jaguar. His career path led him to Rolls-Royce, where he got the chance to work on various models including sedans, coupes, and the brand’s first crossover, Cullinan. Taylor’s role in revolutionizing the design of two of Britain’s most prestigious brands may have caught the attention of Chinese state-owned company FAW, which manufactures Hongqi cars. Until recently, their design approach was as conservative as that of the Jaguar XJ from 1968 to 2009. With Taylor stepping in as FAW’s Vice President of Design, things started to shift. His first project was the luxurious electric crossover Hongqi E-HS9, introduced in 2020. This vehicle is seen as a new version of the Cullinan.

Hongqi E-HS9 model

Daniele Gaglione led the design department of the Chinese brand JAC for nearly 12 years. In September 2010, he was appointed as the chief designer, promoted to design director six years later, and then relocated to Italy, his home country, where he was in charge of JAC’s Italian design center for over three and a half years. His nine-year tenure at Alfa Romeo piqued the interest of the Chinese. Between 2001 and 2010, Gaglione rose to the position of chief exterior designer at Alfa Romeo, contributing to the creation of models like Alfa Romeo 166, 159, Giulietta, and the charismatic 8C Competizione and 8C Spider.

JAC iEV7S mode

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