Virgilio Fernandez Hernandez, 40
Chief designer for interiors, Fiat brand, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Family: Wife, Manuela; sons, Tommaso, 5, and Matias, 2
Born: Valdepenas, Spain
Languages: Spanish, English, Italian
Education: Master’s degree in transportation design, Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, Spain; degree in technical engineering in industrial design, Universita Jaume I, Castellon, Spain
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
Automotive design was always interesting to me, but the complexity of interior design was my biggest motivation. I was curious about moving technology and personalized transport. At my first job, at I.DE.A. Institute, I was a general designer in both the industrial and automotive fields.
The interiors of the new Fiat 5oo and the new Fiat Panda have been my greatest achievements. These cars interpret iconic parts of the heritage of Fiat, but in two different ways: the 5oo in a fashionable and emotional way, and the new Panda with a functional and user-friendly approach.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
I have had many failures, but fortunately I have forgotten them quickly! It is important to start again in a positive way after a failure -- and to never give up. I don't just learn from my own mistakes, but from other people's, too.
What is your current challenge at work?
Broadening my knowledge about the automotive field and how it is changing. When we design something new, we need to show who we are. That means that our past is very important, but it's also important to be fresh and innovative, so that we can anticipate and develop new trends and respond to customer needs.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The tremendous investments needed to get products designed and launched. When we started to produce the 500L in Serbia, I discovered that it was a significant part of the local economy. This fact showed me the importance of doing our work well, because many people and families depend on it.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
One day when we were briefing a team about a new project, my boss, Roberto Giolito (Fiat Chrysler vice president of design), said to me: "Give value to the past to re-invent the future."
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
You need to work well with other designers. Only a good relationship between team members will result in a good car. Remember that one designer cannot create a complete car alone, and it is not only one piece that makes a car. You must have the patience to do the small components first.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Get to know the team well, including their strengths and weaknesses, and find a way to combine all of their skills. Be sure that the other functions in the company are well connected, and finally, be the first to anticipate the future needs of the market.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I am very happy in my current position and role. At the same time, I would like to further develop my career by gaining more experience in interior and exterior car design. This would round off my professional background and give me a 360-degree understanding of the car design industry.
What do you do to relax?
Before I had a family I was a member of a five-person yacht racing team. I dream of sailing with my family in the future, but while I wait for my sons to reach the proper age, I enjoy spending my free time with them. They give me a lot of energy.
I learned to drive while sitting on my father's lap in a Citroen GS. I was only 4 or 5 years old, but I still remember the experience of moving a big car. This is something I always think about when I start a new project. The first car I owned was an old Fiat Panda.
Fiat 500L. My team designed the interior, and driving something done by them is always a pleasure.
2008-present: Chief interior designer for Fiat brand, Fiat Chrysler, Turin, Italy
2006-2008: Chief interior designer, Fiat 5oo – advanced design, Fiat Group, Turin
2005-2006: Concept lab research – advanced design, Fiat Group, Turin
2002-2005: Automotive & industrial design, I.DE.A. Institute, Turin