The German soul at the heart of Kia
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DESIGNER’S PHILOSOPHY FOLLOWS ‘SIMPLICITY OF THE STRAIGHT LINE’
Few car designers have had as much influence developing a brand as German Peter Schreyer, who defected from Audi to Korea’s Kia Motors a decade ago.
Schreyer surprised the international motor industry when he became the chief design officer at Kia in 2006.
Kia was struggling to establish itself internationally, and he was challenged with transforming the firm’s products and image.
He established a European design office for Kia Motors in Frankfurt, Germany, which worked with the design centres in Korea and the United States, to bring international flair and regional influences to the styling of the brand’s vehicles.
Schreyer says the most important task on joining the company was to establish a distinct and unified signature brand identity and image.
“When I started at Kia, it was important that we established an identity and a consistent feeling across the brand,” he says.
“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.”
His efforts eventually led to the creation of design features that have become part of the brand’s identity, such as the various forms of the “tiger nose grille”.
Schreyer also emphasises his principal design philosophy, “the simplicity of the straight line”, draws from Korean influences and takes inspiration from different elements of Korean culture such as architecture, art and music.
“For us 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.”
The car that epitomised the design philosophy of Schreyer and his team was the box-shaped Kia Soul, which first appeared as a motor-show concept vehicle before going on sale at the end of 2008 and was among the first Kia models to wear the “tiger nose grille”.
The Soul foreshadowed the rise of the urban SUV, a genre that is now the most popular form of motor vehicle in the world.
Asked if he had a favourite, Schreyer said: “You know when you have more than one kid, you can never say which your favourite 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.”
He acknowledges the Kia GT concept was a favourite, along with the Soul and the recently released Europe-exclusive Optima Sportswagon.
“It [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,” he says.
Kia had come a long way since Schreyer joined.
“What really excites me is how fast this company is evolving,” he says.
“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.”
Schreyer’s influence at Kia Motors is also stronger than ever, and he has been promoted to become vice-president for the Hyundai Motor Group, of which Kia is a part.