Kia rides new wave of global attention with designer Schreyer at the helmPOSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 22 September 2016
Schreyer’s tenure has seen the Korean car maker’s global sales increase from around 1.1 million cars in 2005, to 3.05 million in 2015.
Schreyer has been the mastermind of Kia’s design revolution over the last decade, a shift which has fundamentally altered the way in which the company’s models are perceived around the world. The German designer, 63, is also known for his work with Hyundai and involvement with the Audi TT.
Having joined Kia Motors in 2006 as Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer is now President and Chief Design Officer of Kia Motors Corporation.
The company says Schreyer’s fresh design viewpoint provided the impetus for the transformation of the brand and its image, matching Kia’s increasingly global outlook.
“When I started at Kia, it was important that we established an identity and a consistent feeling across the brand. But the story of how our new vehicles came to life is about so much more than just aesthetics. It involves intricate choices in how complex ideas work together to create something that generates an emotional response,” Schreyer says.
In the following years, this vision has helped Kia establish a clear identity, raise brand awareness, and put into production a series of modern, progressive new car designs.
“For designers, it’s important to not only look at cars, but to be interested in architecture, art, music, industrial design…all sorts of things. They are influencing us and we are influencing them. People now know more about Korea, and about what’s going on there.
“On the one hand you have this ‘heartbeat’ when you go to Seoul, and on the other hand you have the silence, the concentration. Both of these things inspire me and our designers.”
Schreyer’s design philosophy is borne out of this Korean inspiration: ‘the simplicity of the straight line’, which characterizes every one of the designs he has overseen. The growth of a truly global network of designers has led to different interpretations of this approach, with design centers now established in California in the USA, Frankfurt in Germany, and at the company’s Namyang R&D center in Korea.
The 2010 Kia Optima, one of the first Kia models to be designed entirely under the direction of Schreyer, is seen today as the catalyst for the recent design-led transformation of Kia’s product range. As well as offering new technology and greater refinement than its predecessors, the Optima’s design added depth to the Kia model line-up and fundamentally changed the way people saw the Kia brand in markets all around the globe. The newest generation Optima, launched earlier this year, also retains this unique personality.
In addition to the Optima, and every production model since, Schreyer has also directed the creation of a number of design concepts, exploring and pushing the boundaries of Kia’s design capabilities. Concepts such as the 2012 Track’ster, 2014 GT4 Stinger and 2010 Ray have shown an exciting vision of future Kia designs, and have helped establish greater depth and a global outlook to Kia design as a whole.
The stunning, “forward thinking” Kia GT Concept was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011 and suggested what a four-door sports sedan from the company could look like.
The GT Concept also happens to be Schreyer’s favorite design of all: “You know when you have more than one kid, you can never say which your favorite is. You love them all. I also do, with all the cars I’ve designed, but there is one that stands out a little bit, I must admit. The GT Concept was a dream project for me and our designers because we got the chance to make a real GT, a car where you can travel in style.”
New launches in new segments over the coming years, and the ongoing rebirth of new model generations, mean that Kia design will continue to be at the heart of the company’s success in future.
“What really excites me is how fast this company is evolving. The brand as you knew it 10 or even five years ago is gone. You can see it in even the smallest detail. You can feel it in the sophisticated textures and materials. And you experience it in ways that are inter-related and connected. As we move forward, it’s important that change is an improvement and not just for the sake of looking different.”