Some designers have become synonymous with their brands. A few are almost celebrities, Automotive News Europe said.
Ford promoted chief designer J Mays to executive vice president last year, reporting directly to Nick Scheele, company president.
BMW ‘s Chris Bangle is better known than the company’s executive team. With his work at Alfa Romeo, then Seat and now Audi Walter de’Silva has become known for replacing bland looks with distinctive faces he gives to cars.
“Somebody like Patrick LeQuement at Renault is setting the course for the company as a whole,” said Dale Harrow, director of the automotive design department at the Royal College of Art in London.
“Designers are now being credited with the product. Ten years ago if you bought a Ford it came out of Ford design studios. We’re in an interesting period where the personality of designers is being used as way of supplementing and supporting the brand and the vehicle.”
Harrow said boards of directors at automakers are increasingly buying into this personality-driven product. “Designers are getting to board level positions and they’re also leading the profession.”
J Mays is affecting how Ford cars are produced, sold and even advertised.
“That is a very significant change. It’s no longer prettying up someone else’s engineering to make it more desirable.”
Bangle has become the focal point for both love and hate at BMW. Anti-Bangle websites have popped up on the internet.
But a number of critics are having second thoughts. Some are praising Bangle’s cars, and BMW sales are booming.