Wolfsburg, Germany - Walter Maria da Silva, Volkswagen Group's charismatic head of design, is to retire at the end of November - although he's been asked to continue his links with the group in an advisory capacity.
What's perhaps more telling is that the Volkswagen media release announcing his retirement makes no mention of a successor. Given the current situation at Volkswagen and its need to cut costs wherever possible, it's likely that Da Silva's departure will signal a radical simplification of its design infrastructure, with his job falling away.
Walter Maria de Silva was born in Lecco, Italy on 27 February 1951 and joined the Fiat Design Centre in Turinas a young graduate in 1972. After bouncing around various independent design studios from 1975 to 1986, he joined Alfa Romeo as head of design in 1986, where he was responsible for the 156 - which established a new design philosophy and was seen as a game-changer for Alfa - and the sexy little 147.
HIS MOST BEAUTIFUL CREATION
In 1998 he became head of the Seat Design Centre in Martorell, Spain and within five years had taken on the design of the entire Audi brand group - Audi, Seat and Lamborghini. While there he was responsible for the styling of the six-generation A6 and A5 Coupé - which he still regards as his most beautiful creation.
When he was appointed head of group design for the Volkswagen family in 2007, however, his focus changed to creating a common design protocol across all the brands while allowing each a high degree of styling freedom, resulting in cars as different as the Volkswagen Up, the Golf 6 and 7, and the Audi R8, each of which bore his distinctive signature.
New Volkswagen CEO Mathias Muller paid tribute to Da Silva's work by emphasising his unique combination of engineering discipline and creative flair, saying: "Walter de Silva succeeded in establishing a design culture and methodology across all group brands that is unique in our industry."
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