FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group's design chief, Walter de Silva, is retiring at the age of 64 after guiding the look of brands ranging from Seat to Bentley for nine years.
De Silva will step down at the end of November, VW said in a statement today. He will continue with VW Group as an adviser.
De Silva, who turns 65 in February, was head of design at Fiat and Alfa Romeo before joining VW Group's Seat unit in 1999 with the task of giving the brand a sporty image. He then moved to Audi, where he created the single-frame grille intended to give the brand's cars a standout design from rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Since early 2007 he has been in charge of design for all VW Group brands, including the luxury marques Audi and Bentley and mass-market brands VW, Skoda and Seat.
De Silva's retirement comes as the company accelerates a reorganization following its costly emissions cheating scandal, which de Silva is not implicated in. However, VW is seeking to reduce its design department's 100 million euro ($107.3 million U.S.) annual budget, German business paper Handelsblatt reported today.
It is not clear whether VW will appoint a new group design chief responsible for coordinating styling at all 12 brands or ax the position.
De Silva was among an elite group of close confidantes that Martin Winterkorn took with him to Wolfsburg when Winterkorn was promoted to VW Group CEO from head of Audi in 2007. Winterkorn resigned on Sept. 23, saying he accepted responsibility for the company's cheating on emissions tests but had no knowledge of personal wrongdoing on his part.
As VW's head of group design, de Silva eliminated what critics had called overstyling done under predecessor Murat Guenak, ordering late changes to the sixth-generation VW Golf that went on sale in late 2008.
De Silva will retire from all VW Group posts, including his recently-appointed role of chairman of Italdesign Giugiaro, an Audi unit.
Luca Ciferri contributed to this report