After seven wildly successful years as Kia Motor Corp’s chief design officer, Peter Schreyer has been named one of three presidents of Kia Motor Corp. He is the company’s first non‐Korean president.
In an attempt to move away from their reputation for cheap, no‐frills cars, Kia and Hyundai Motor Corp (which merged together during the Asian financial crisis of 1998) shifted its focus towards design over the past decade. The hiring of Schreyer was an integral part of this shift.
Peter Schreyer joined Kia in 2006 from Audi, where he led the design of the popular Audi TT sports coupe. Schreyer also oversaw the design of the Volkswagen New Beetle. “We should not have let him go,” said Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech in a recent interview with Automotive News.
When Schreyer joined the Korean automaker, he described Kia’s utilitarian design as “neutral”.
“I wanted to give Kia a character,” said Schreyer in 2007. “In the past... you really didn’t know if it was Korean or Japanese... I think it’s important that you are able to recognize a Kia at first sight.”
In 2007, Schreyer gave Kia its “face” by overseeing the design of the ubiquitous “Tiger Nose” grille, now a universal feature on the Kia fleet.
Schreyer’s promotion also hints at Kia and Hyundai’s ambition to surpass rivals Volkswagen and BMW in design. The Korean car manufacturer’s unwavering dedication to design is attributed to Kia‐Hyundai Motor Corp’s exponential growth, particularly throughout the 2009 economic slump.
Once considered a minor, rather unassuming presence in the auto industry, Kia and Hyundai Motors now ranks fifth in world car sales, a success undoubtedly achieved through Schreyer’s influence.
Riding on Schreyer’s success at the company, Kia-Hyundai also acquired another European designer this year. Christopher Chapman, best known for his design of the popular BMW X5, was lured away from the German auto company and will head Hyundai’s U.S. design center in Fountain Valley, California.