VOLKSWAGEN CHAIRMAN Ferdinand Piech says he wants VW's Seat brand to rise to the level of Alfa Romeo in style and image.
To back his words sources say he has hired Walter de' Silva, Alfa's celebrated chief designer.
De' Silva, 47, will move to Barcelona to head Seat's styling center, currently led by Peter Knapp. Knapp is expected to return to a new VW post in Germany.
A Fiat Auto spokesman confirmed that de' Silva will leave. VW and Seat spokesmen said they were not aware of any changes.
De' Silva reorganized Alfa Romeo's moribund styling center after taking over in 1986. Alfa's Centro Stile has since won competitions with external studios for the design of the 145/146, 156, 166, as well as the 145/146 replacement due in 2000. The 156 was voted Europe's car of the year for 1997.
De Silva, a native of the Milan area, is an architect by training. He began working at Fiat's styling center in the early 1970s and moved to Turin's IDeA Institute in 1979 before joining Alfa.