Walter Maria de Silva Retires From Volkswagen
As if dealing with the biggest automotive scandal in history isn’t enough on its plate, the Volkswagen Group is also set to lose its design boss, now that Walter de Silva announced his retirement from the grind. The 64-year old has been the driving force behind the designs of models under the Volkswagen brand since 2007 and his upcoming retirement at the end of November 2015, is going to leave a gaping hole in the company’s design department.
Volkswagen has yet to name a successor to De Silva, but it is widely believed that the company will not look for a replacement in the short-term as it tries to re-organize its design studios once De Silva tucks away his design pens for good. The Italian designer is known in the automotive industry as one of the sharpest designers in the last 40 years. He cut his cloth with Fiat back in 1972 before moving to Alfa Romeo in 1986. It wasn’t until 2002 that De Silva joined the Volkswagen Group, taking the design helm at Seat before moving to Audi in 2002 and developing the designs of models like the sixth-generation Audi A5 and Audi A6. De Silva’s greatest work with the Four Rings is without question the Audi R8, the brand’s resident exotic and arguably one of the most popular supercars in its segment today. De Silva eventually moved to the mothership and has been largely responsible for the designs of a lot of the current Volkswagen models in the market today, including the Volkswagen Up!, Polo, and the sixth and seventh generations of the Golf.
De Silva’s retirement is another huge blow to Volkswagen, which has yet to dig itself out of the now infamous DieselGate scandal. Sure, it’s two different things entirely, but at a time when VW needs as much positive news these days as it can get, this is the one that drops on its lap. De Silva will be leaving huge shoes to fill within the company and should the time come that Volkswagen decides to bring in a successor, that person will walk in with a whole lot of pressure on his hands.
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Why it matters
Walter De Silva is an institution in the industry, so news of his of his upcoming retirement is deservedly getting a lot of attention. I, for one, am still shocked to wake up to this news. I’ve always been a fan of De Silva’s work, and while he gets credit for his work on the Audi R8 and A5, my personal favorite remains the 1995 Alfa Romeo 156, a car whose poster I had on my wall when I was growing up. I didn’t know then that De Silva was the one who designed it, but finding out years later made me appreciate his work as arguably one of the best car designers in history.
While I do think that he’s going to leave a huge shadow when he leaves Volkswagen, I’m of the mindset that the company’s design outfit can move forward seamlessly once he exits. It’s too big of a team to fail in his absence and Volkswagen is going to make sure that it puts the right people in place to take De Silva’s position and steer it in the right direction. Besides, the designers who worked under De Silva in his time with Volkswagen should have gained the proper knowledge that they can use in the future.
His absence is going to be felt, that’s for sure. But, once Volkswagen has everything in order, the German automaker should still continue to design some of the best cars in the market. It just won’t have Walter De Silva’s design imprint on them anymore.