Seat's head of design has been styling cars since he was a child. He almost became an architect, but discovered he preferred cars to buildings. He quit college to join the Centro Stile at Fiat as a trainee in 1972. His departure from the top design job at Alfa Romeo 18 months ago surprised many in the motor industry, but de'Silva said he needed a new challenge. He talked to Automotive News Europe correspondent Olive Keogh.
Director, Centro De Estilo, Seat.
Italian, 'bad English,' learning
Married, four children, two cats.
First job in the car business?
Junior designer, Centro Stile Fiat.
What was your first car?
What cars are in your garage?
A Seat Alhambra for my wife, and a Seat Leon, a Seat Ibiza and a Porsche Boxster for me. I always have a sports car in my garage because I enjoy driving this type of car. I used to have an Alfa Spider Guiletta.
What cars have you most admired?
I love cars of all sorts so my list would be long. It would include the Citroen 2CV and DS, the Mini, the VW Beetle and the Fiat 500. I very much admire cars that come together as a complete unit. They are effective in every way, and styling is just one element of what makes the whole project successful.
What is your greatest achievement?
The Alfa 156.
How do you relax?
I sleep, spend time with my family, read, meet friends and I like to visit my mother who lives by the sea in Italy. I don't like doing anything which means I have to take a plane. I have to fly a lot as it is.
What is your passion?
Cars. I am always drawing cars. At home, at work, in meetings. I draw all the time. I am not a professional artist but sometimes I also like to do portraits.
Do you have any hobbies?
Not really. I don't have the time. But I ski a little and I play a little tennis.
Do you work weekends?
Not unless I have to. I prefer to be with my family.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Picnic at Hanging Rock.
What do you do on planes?
Sleep or read. When I am working on a project, I sleep only four or five hours a night. So I catch up when I can.
What companies do you admire outside the auto business?
There are many whose designs impress me. Bang & Olufsen would be one.
How would you describe yourself to others?
I am an optimist, a realist and very goal-driven. I look to the future and not to the past. I love starting new projects. When I finish one I like to start on another immediately.
What's your favorite food?
Pasta. I don't cook very often. But I can cook very good pasta.
Is there anything you would like to change about yourself?
I would like to be less aggressive in my approach to my work. It is a positive aggression driven by an impatience to get on, to start immediately and become totally involved. I want to arrive even before I have begun. But I think it would be better if I could be quieter in my approach.
What are you really good at?
Sharing my knowledge. I like to work with young designers and to pass my experience on to them. I have been in this business for 27 years so I have learned a lot.
What is the next big thing in the auto business?
Stronger branding by the manufacturers, because the public's memory is so short. Design will play a role in this at a cultural and a strategic level. Also the arrival of the multifunctional volume vehicle which is compact in exterior size but spacious inside. The growing use of computers and information technology inside cars will also be significant.