Peter Horbury has worked on countless projects during his 40-plus years as a car designer, ranging from doing the grille, headlights and the bumpers on the Chrysler SIMCA Horizon, which he proudly remembers was the 1979 European car of the year, to creating from scratch the look and feel of Volvo Cars subsidiary Lynk & CO's entire lineup. Horbury, who has been executive vice president of design at Geely Auto since 2011, has also held top jobs with Volvo and Ford's disbanded Premier Automotive Group. He recently spoke with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc about the changes his craft have undergone during his decades of service. He also discussed how he is mentoring the next generation of car stylists, and he cheered on the promotions of fellow designers Thomas Ingenlath, who is now CEO at Polestar, and Gerry McGovern, who was recently added to the management board at Jaguar Land Rover.
You have been in the automotive industry as a car designer for more than 40 years. Could you tell us about the biggest changes that you have seen to the craft during this time?
There has been a huge change in the methods to get to the end results. I remember my first days in Chrysler's European design studio in Whitley, Coventry, [England], where the craftsmen were lying across huge drafting tables and drawing every section. Apart from that, the actual way of getting into design is more or less the same as when I started doing this: you go to an art school or a design college and then start off by doing the door handles on a car. My first job was the grille, headlamps and bumpers of a Chrysler Horizon. I was given the responsibility to design that bit because you never got to do a full car until you were much older. The craft has developed hugely over time. The advent of computers has made an enormous difference. Today we are using tools which were only dreamed of not too long ago.