We Interview Peter Schreyer Head of Design at Kia

By Paul Maric  |  March 12th, 2010

As one of only three automotive designers to be awarded with an Honorary Doctorate at the Royal College of Arts, it’s needless to say that Peter Schreyer is one of the automotive world’s most famous and successful designers.

After starting his professional career at Audi in 1978 as a design graduate, he moved on to Volkswagen in 1999. It wasn’t until 2006 that Kia swayed the German born designer to join its ranks. He is most famous for the iconic exterior design of the original Audi TT in 1995.

CarAdvice had the chance to sit down with Mr Schreyer at the 2010 Geneva Motor show to discuss cars and the direction Kia is heading, with respect to automotive design.

One of the key things Mr Schreyer reiterated to me was Kia’s rather neutral image prior to his arrival. Part of his design philosophy at Kia has been to unify the brand’s models with a “family face”, as he calls it.

“In the past, the Kia cars were very neutral. When you saw one on the road, you didn’t really know if it was Korean or Japanese…I think it’s very important that you are able to recognise a Kia at first sight,” Mr Schreyer said.

In addition to designing cars like the Sportage to stand out from the crowd, Mr Schreyer also believes his designs are timeless, saying:

“I feel quite happy about the way the Sportage came out. It’s not fancy and has a timeless design. It looks natural.”

While the design of cars is moving forward in the typical sense, Mr Schreyer worked to bridge the gap between efficient and non-efficient cars with the Sportage. He explained that cars like hybrids and vehicles geared toward extreme fuel efficiency shouldn’t need to look totally different to other cars on the road.

His aim with the Sportage was to give it the rugged looks of an SUV, while also adhering to aerodynamic principles often limited to cars like the Toyota Prius and its other counterparts.

I asked Mr Schreyer if there was room to further evolve the design of a car. If you were to forget about everything you knew about car design to date, what would you change to improve cars as they are today.

“I would love to redefine the way people think of a car today. Although we can go crazy on designs for show cars (removing door handles, etc.), we are limited to engineering standards and safety standards. If the standards didn’t exist, it would be something I would love to do,” Mr Schreyer said.

Mr Schreyer’s Kia designs to date have all been cars built for mass markets. When asked about the possibility of a sports car to express Kia’s emotions, Mr Schreyer said

“You are the fifth person to ask me this question today, but it’s a good one. Although we have nothing down the line, I’d love to do one…it’s your job to create the demand.”

He went on to talk about there being room for further products in the Kia range and ones that involve emotion and take away a purchase based on a rational decision alone. This is certainly similar to the path Hyundai has taken over the past years with cars like the Genesis.

During times that he is not based in Kia’s Frankfurt design studio, Mr Schreyer’s family gets around in a Kia Sorento and Kia Soul. He says that could change once the Kia Megentis is released at this year’s New York Motor Show, so we will certainly be keeping an eye out for it.

Peter Schreyer has been a design revolution for the Kia brand. His influence is sure to propel the Korean manufacturer well into the future and from all counts it is being lead with positive praise.

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