As the Volkswagen Group’s design chief, Walter de’Silva is responsible for all models designed in the global studios of seven brands that are as diverse as Skoda and Bugatti.
Most recently, de’Silva has masterminded the complete overhaul of VW’s 10-strong model range in just three years. Speaking to Autocar at the recent European launch of the sixth-generation Jetta saloon, de’Silva outlined the next steps for VW as it continues to develop its design direction.
His major challenges include ground-up replacements for the Golf and its family of models, and refining its new design theme for the new models.
What is the starting point for the design of the seventh-generation Golf?VW design should be unique and not complicated. This is the true design of VW, but it was not like this when I took over three years ago. VW design has to be distinctive because VWs are world cars that everybody understands and recognises as VWs.
When I took over, I stopped the excessive decoration and over-design of models. I did this initially with the Golf and Polo. Now all the other models have followed. Everything should be clean, precise and have meaning. Before I arrived, this was not VW style.
How will that approach translate into the design of the next Golf?The design language will stay the same; the new cars will evolve. We will develop the horizontal face and some of the smaller details such as the lights, door handles and side mirrors — all microcosms of VW’s designs. We’ve done a similar thing with Audi — and now it’s VW’s turn.
There won’t be any stylistic additions to the next range of VW’s designs. Cars will have to stay in proportion and be elegant. On the Golf, expect great proportions, thanks to a new platform.
Does VW need a halo car, free of its current design theme?VW used to be famous for staple cars like the Golf, Polo and Sharan — this was it. Now we have everything from the Up to the Amarok [pick-up]. We need a wide range of products to cover the segments and are always very open minded when it comes to new designs.
We need sports cars, MPVs, city cars, everything. Anything we do will need to be instantly recognisable as a VW but personalised for the market and segment. And always remember it is for a global market.
What can we expect from the design of the Up city car?The Up will be recognisable as a VW — no question. But VW doesn’t have a design mask that is a camouflage you scale up or down to fit the segment. The architecture of the Up means that it’s more different to design than anything else in our range. It has a long wheelbase and short overhangs and a real wheel-in-each-corner design in the spirit of the original Mini.
We don’t want to compromise on interior space with design, though. People aren’t going to be made smaller to fit in, so it has to be a clear VW design, but also a more practical one.
Will VW extend its range of sporty R models?Yes, we want to do more R models. VW is an advocate of sporty cars and we want to race them, as with the Scirocco. But you have to remember that we have a lot of brands in our group and can’t do everything we want.
And what about a bigger sports car above the BlueSport?We will do a sports car for the right customer and the right market. The BlueSport is still a work in progress, but we won’t do a mission of the Porsche brand.