Hyundai issued a statement saying Sangyup Lee will start work next
month as its head of design, after Reuters reported the hiring of
the Korean designer by the South Korean auto giant.
Lee is being brought in to work with Luc Donckerwolke, a
Peruvian-born Belgian, to lead Hyundai's development of its Genesis
premium car brand - a project driven by Chung Euisun, heir-apparent
to the Hyundai Group.
"Lee will help...enhance the design competitiveness of both the
Hyundai and Genesis brands with his abundant experience in designing
high-end luxury vehicles," Hyundai said in its statement.
"His challenging and innovative design languages fit well with the
DNA of Hyundai Motor."
Hyundai Motor, which sells some 8 million cars a year, sees limited
growth unless it breaks into new markets, a person close to the
automaker told Reuters. For the South Korean firm, that means
premium cars and maybe pick-up trucks and parts of Southeast Asia.
Lee said he has joined Hyundai Motor as a vice president in charge
of Hyundai and Genesis design, reporting to Donckerwolke, who will
head up Hyundai's new Prestige Design Division, as well as being
global head of Hyundai design - a reporting arrangement that Hyundai
also confirmed on Monday.
Bentley spokesman Andrew Roberts confirmed Lee "has resigned from
Bentley to take a position at another brand."
Lee, 46, ran Bentley's exterior design since 2012 having previously
worked at Volkswagen group's design center in California, and
General Motors. He played a lead role in designing the Chevrolet
Corvette, Stingray and Camaro - which featured in the "Transformers"
movies - and Bentley's Bentayga SUV.
Lee told Reuters the ex-Bentley design duo aim to make Genesis a
recognized global premium brand as new disruptive technologies such
as autonomous, connected cars and alternative propulsion systems
alter the auto design landscape.
"Because of these technologies, the car industry is about to hit a
crossroads. The future is truly open," he said. "It's difficult to
say if all the prestigious brands today will still be around in
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Lee, who says he was first approached by Hyundai two years ago, said
he and Donckerwolke plan to design Genesis cars from a "clean sheet
"For decades, luxury brands such as Bentley, Aston Martin and Maserati have been
about possession," he said. "In the future, as disruptive technologies kick in,
luxury is going to be about experience. People are going to look for a special
experience rather than something special to own."
As "mobility on demand" - the once futuristic concept of calling up a robot-car
by smartphone - takes hold, Hyundai predicts many households in the United
States, its biggest market, will no longer own two, or three cars, but spend
more on one car, said the person close to the company.
"That means upscale cars," he said, adding "profitability-wise, the luxury
segment is much better, too."
That fits with Chung's aspiration to not just drive the Genesis brand but
elevate the Hyundai name to an elite global corporate league alongside the likes
of BMW, Boeing and Apple.
"That's his legacy. ES (Euisun) wants to make Hyundai a truly globally
recognized and respected company," the person said.
Chung was involved with hiring both Donckerwolke and Lee, as well as Manfred
Fitzgerald, former brand and design director at Lamborghini who was named
earlier this year as head of Genesis, said another person with knowledge of the
(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Ian Geoghegan and Ryan Woo)
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