Walter de Silva’s 65th birthday - due next February - comes an opportune time for a car designer who has been at his drawing board for well over 40 years.

After 17 years in various roles at the VW Group, and currently the Head of Group design, de Silva has announced that he’s retiring at the end of the month. Although he heads for the door as the VW Group faces the biggest upheaval of its existence, he can be happy, at least, that his area of the company is firing on all cylinders.

de Silva’s first appointment at VW - becoming head of Seat design in 1998 - was indicative of the German motor industry’s search for design soul. 

The VW Group has long had a weak spot for British and Italian cars, believing them to have innate character and charm that often escapes their own products. After all, does anyone actual love their Polo or Passat? Or are they cars that can only be admired? 

The Germans quietly think that their cultural mindset of technical solutions and an emphasis on engineering (their inability to get old-school diesel engines through US Clean Air laws notwithstanding) lacks the flair and passion that brand theory insists is essential for long-term prosperity.