Land Rover Designer Phil Simmons to Lead Great Wall’s Haval Brand

Former Land Rover studio director Phil Simmons has been appointed Global Design Director and Vice President of Great Wall Motors’ Haval brand, the company announced. This effectively puts an end to Great Wall’s search to find a replacement for Pierre Leclercq, who left the Chinese automaker last year to join Hyundai Motor Company’s Kia brand as Vice President of Design last year.

Simmons has had a long, successful career at Land Rover — he joined the off-road carmaker in 1990 following his studies at Coventry University’s Transportation Design program. Working under then design boss Geoff Upex, he spent the first 10 years of his career with the British brand and was ultimately responsible for the exterior design of the third generation Range Rover.

But opportunity came knocking and, in 1997, he moved to join Ford (then Land Rover’s parent company) in the US, where he was responsible for Ford’s mid-size vehicles: the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ. In September 1999, he was promoted chief designer for Ford of Europe.

In 2007, Simmons again returned to Land Rover and become Range Rover’s first ever studio director. Though he was initially solely responsible for the Range Rover studio — a position specifically created to underline ‘the importance and distinctiveness’ between the Range Rover and Land Rover branded vehicles — he later worked on Land Rover products as well.

As studio director working under the direction of Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern, British-born Simmons oversaw the creation of all of Land Rover’s most recent products, including the new Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar, Range Rover Evoque, and the Land Rover Discovery and Discovery Sport.

Now, with over 30 years of automotive design experience, Simmons will be leading the Haval team from the main design studio in Baoding, China, as well as the advanced design studio in Shanghai. According to Great Wall Motors (GWM), “his role is to build a world-class design team and create the unique design of all Haval models and strengthen the brand’s position in the SUV segment on the world stage”.

Great Wall Motors’ Haval brand was founded in 2013 shortly after former BMW designer Leclercq’s arrival. The brand has since gone on to become a big player in the Chinese SUV sector and is continuing to grow globally — 68 percent of GWM’s sales were Haval vehicles in the first seven months of this year.

But Great Wall Motors also has plans to diversify its crossover, SUV and truck offerings. At the Frankfurt motor show last year, the Chinese company introduced Wey — its premium SUV brand — to Europeans, creating another bookend to the Haval brand and complementing the vast number of pickup trucks the automaker sells under the Wingle brand name.

Great Wall is also forging ahead with its electric vehicle initiative. At the Beijing motor show in April, the company unveiled the all-electric Ora brand before entering into a joint-venture agreement with BMW this summer to build EVs in eastern China. The partnership’s first vehicle is expected to launch in 2021.

Great Wall Motors is certainly an ambitious player in the crossover, truck and SUV segments in China, and the appointment of a reputable designer from a historical British SUV/luxury brand will certainly serve to reinforce the Haval brand image moving forward.

We wish Phil Simmons all the best in his new role.


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