NEW YORK -- South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group wants to be known for world-class -- not just cheap -- cars, and one of Germany’s top designers is helping lead its transformation.
Peter Schreyer, a president of the company that controls Kia Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co., made his mark at Volkswagen AG, where he began his career. His 1998 design for the TT roadster influenced a whole generation of German stylists. He also was the top designer at Volkswagen, where he oversaw development of the 1997 New Beetle.
Six years after he left, former Chairman Ferdinand Piech told reporters he regretted letting him go.
“There are very few people who can go into a company and make a significant change,’’ said Dale Harrow, acting head of vehicle design at the Royal College of Art in London. “Peter has managed to do that.”
Schreyer’s boss now is Chung Mong Koo, the autocratic billionaire who controls South Korea’s two largest automakers. Chung encourages fierce competition between the Seoul-based manufacturers and typically keeps Westerners like the Bavarian-born Schreyer far from the corridors of power.
But combined sales at the two companies more than doubled to 8 million cars and trucks between 2006 and 2015 after Schreyer started designing for Kia. He became lead designer at Hyundai in 2013 and now oversees a network of studios on three continents.