TURIN – Volkswagen Group design chief Walter De Silva will strengthen the role of Italdesign Giugiaro as an innovation center after replacing Giorgetto Giugiaro as the Italian design house's chairman.
De Silva became chairman of Italdesign on Sept. 1, succeeding Giugiaro, who resigned in June from the styling and engineering company he co-founded in 1968.
De Silva, 64, will retain his role as VW Group design director overseeing all group brands including Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and the mass-market VW, Skoda and Seat marques.
Lamborghini’s head of design, Filippo Perini, 50, is Italdesign’s new design director. Perini succeeds Wolfgang Egger, Audi’s former chief designer, who has returned to Germany to head VW Group’s interbrand design studio in Brunswick after spending just over a year at Italdesign. Perini keeps his current role at Lamborghini.
Giugiaro, 77, and his son, Fabrizio, have cut their ties with Italdesign. On June 28 they sold the 9.9 percent stake they had kept in the company after VW’s Audi bought 90.1 percent of Italdesign in 2010.
De Silva said that the design house will now have a greater role as a design and engineering innovation center for all VW Group’s 12 brands.
He will also give VW Group’s brand centers more power. These should become “ambassadors” for good design and also create “stunning” cars that will be acclaimed globally, he told Automotive News Europe.
Italdesign will compete with the brand design centers on new production models and it will also develop “design and engineering concepts that could become a platform for future interbrand innovations,” he said.
De Silva believes the role of design and of designers should be redefined in today’s fast-changing industry. Design is being revolutionized because stylists can now build a car for production with designs from a 3D printer, so old distinctions are no longer meaningful, he said.
De Silva and Perini head Italdesign’s the creative team while former VW executive Joerg Astalosch, 43, is new CEO, replacing Enzo Pacella, who will continue to serve the company as a consultant for public affairs.
Astalosch said Italdesign’s workforce will be more than 1,000 by the end of the year, thanks to 50 new hires. He said that Italdesign last year increased revenues by 19 million euros to 189 million but declined to give a forecast for the current year.
De Silva will reduce his working hours at VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg to spend time at Italdesign, which is based in the southern outskirts of Turin.
Italdesign will open an academy offering postgraduate courses to 50-60 of the most promising young designers from around the world. The academy is planned to be fully operational in 2018 when Italdesign has its 50th anniversary.
The academy will teach wider cultural aspects including fine arts, history and philosophy to help its students become better designers. “Good design is a product of good culture," de Silva said.
The academy’s teachers will be from within VW Group but also from outside the automaker and from other disciplines to offer a multicultural approach. Students will also have a chance to gain work experience at Lamborghini and at the motorcycle builder Ducati, which is owned VW.