Donckerwolke Takes a Walk, Bentley Design Chief Replaced By Audi’s Stefan Sielaff

Luc Donckerwolke

Bentley’s outspoken design chief Luc Donckerwolke has left the company. Taking his position is former Audi designer Stefan Sielaff. Donckerwolke left Bentley on amicable terms, and we fully expect him to surface in a leading design position elsewhere in the automotive or the technology world.

Donckerwolke had a 23-year career at the Volkswagen Group, and some of his designs have made history. He was closely involved in the purist, first-generation Škoda Fabia and Octavia models; he helped shape the Audi A2—a marvel of efficiency; and as chief designer of Lamborghini, he oversaw the design of the Gallardo and created the Murciélago. In 2005, he left for SEAT, then became head of the VW Groups’s advanced design, finally moving on to Bentley in 2012.

In his three years at Bentley, Donckerwolke created three new cars: The upcoming Bentayga SUV, which is entirely unrelated to the infamous 2012 EXP 9 F concept; the next-generation Continental GT; and the EXP10 Speed 6 concept (below), which just captured the design award for concept cars and prototypes at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este.

bent

Bentley EXP10 Speed 6 concept

In a world of political correctness and sanitized public relations statements, it is rare to see an automotive executive share his feelings undisguised. Luc Donckerwolke is one of the exceptions. The fiercely independent designer is not afraid to speak his mind; evidence of this was his public indignation over the Lincoln Continental concept at the New York auto show, which he slammed as a shameless ripoff of the Flying Spur. Donckerwolke’s comments were the talk of the show—and we know that many of his colleagues (not to mention VW Group top executives) approved.

With Donckerwolke, Bentley loses one of the most prolific auto designers out there. But the brand gains another star: Stefan Sielaff is a longtime Audi designer and one of the most highly respected designers within the community. Sielaff has shaped many current Audi models—the 2011 Audi e-tron Spyder concept is emblematic of his style. He was moved to head the VW Group’s interior design and the Potsdam design studio in early 2012; the move to the Group level was the result of a power struggle with Wolfgang Egger, who has since left Audi. Even after moving to head Bentley Design, Sielaff will keep his role as head of Group interior design strategy. In Crewe, his tasks will include creating a successor for the Mulsanne.

Audi e-tron Spyder concept

2011 Audi e-tron Spyder concept



Donckerwolke’s departure raises another topic: Who will succeed Walter de’ Silva as head of Volkswagen Group Design? Donckerwolke has left the group, and de’ Silva’s desired candidate, Wolfgang Egger, is out of the race. There are several promising internal contenders, including Sielaff, VW’s Klaus Bischoff, Audi’s Marc Lichte, and Jozef Kaban of Škoda, but VW could go for an external candidate, as well. It is even possible that the position won’t be reassigned when de’ Silva retires.

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