Luc Donckerwolke’s resignation from the top role at Bentley design earlier this month is said to have come as a shock. Bentley announced VW Group veteran Stefan Sielaff as his successor but it was — and is — uncertain as to what the Belgian designer’s next career move would be.
Now the rumor mill is once again spinning, this time with an Australian website reporting that Bentley’s former head of design is due to replace Peter Schreyer at Hyundai-Kia when he retires in a few years.
This clearly isn’t the first time we’ve seen a high-profile VW Group design exec jump ship to join a less established Asian rival. Schreyer famously broke the mold when he joined Kia from his position at Audi in 2006 — following the success of the TT and other vehicles designed under his direction.
There’s no denying the impact Schreyer’s leadership — and the incredible strength of the design teams in Korea, Europe and the US — has had on Kia design since then. Recognizing the accomplishment of the design-led approach initiated by Schreyer, top brass promoted him to President of Kia in 2012 and assigned him to lead Hyundai’s design efforts a month later.
Prior to joining Bentley in 2012, Donckerwolke worked at Audi, Skoda, Lamborghini, Seat and was appointed to lead VW Group’s advanced design in 2011. He could potentially follow in Schreyer’s footsteps when he retires in 2017 — there is still a lot of work to be done at the Korean brands, which could be an incentive for Donckerwolke. But he’ll first have to adapt to a very different corporate culture — hence the two-year gap.
While the move for Donckerwolke to head the Hyundai-Kia seems plausible, it rings strange as well. Prior to his abrupt departure from the VW Group it was believed that Donckerwolke would succeed Walter de’Silva at the helm of VW Group design, which is a monumental achievement in itself.