De Silva began his design career at Fiat in 1972 and led styling at Alfa Romeo from 1986 to 1998. He first joined VW Group with Seat but made a big splash at Audi in 2002. His work there included the sixth-generation A6, A5, and the fantastic R8. Later, he created a great take on the classic Leica M9 camera, too.
VW praised de Silva's creation of a design culture that spanned its division but still allowed for creativity within each one. "Walter de Silva epitomizes creativity and the Italian sense of beauty and style on the one hand and thoroughness, a systematic approach and discipline on the other," CEO Matthias Müller said in the announcement.
De Silva's retirement could bring a major change in the way VW Group organizes its studios, according to Automotive News. The automaker reportedly wants to cut its annual styling budget and might not seek a replacement for him.
Head of Group Design established common design culture across all brands while retaining creative autonomy of each individual brand
Walter Maria de Silva Walter Maria de Silva
Walter Maria de Silva (64), Head of Group Design, is retiring with effect from the end of November. De Silva assumed design responsibility for all passenger car brands within the Volkswagen Group in February 2007. Walter de Silva will continue his links with the Group in an advisory capacity.
Walter Maria de Silva was born in Lecco (Italy) on February 27, 1951 and joined the Volkswagen Group 17 years ago when he became Head of the SEAT Design Centre in 1998. He was put in charge of the design of the Audi brand group, including the brands Audi, Lamborghini and SEAT, in 2002. His new design language with Audi was epitomised by the 6th generation of the Audi A6 and Audi A5 Coupé. He was appointed Head of Group Design at Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft in 2007. Walter de Silva saw the main focus of his work as design chief in establishing and nurturing a common design culture across all brands, which nevertheless allows each brand to retain a high degree of creative autonomy.
The CEO of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, Matthias Müller, paid tribute to Walter de Silva's work with these words: "Walter de Silva epitomizes creativity and the Italian sense of beauty and style on the one hand and thoroughness, a systematic approach and discipline on the other." Acknowledging de Silva's definitive achievements for Volkswagen, Müller said: "Walter de Silva succeeded in establishing a design culture and methodology across all Group brands that is unique in our industry. At the same time, he was the driving force in preserving a high degree of creative autonomy for the brands and their design departments."
The outstanding vehicles created by de Silva include the Alfa 156 (1997) and 147 (2001), the Volkswagen up!, the Polo and the Golf 6 and 7, the Audi R8 and the Audi A5, about which de Silva said that it was "the most beautiful car" he had ever designed.
Walter de Silva received numerous design awards for his work, including the "Design Prize of the Federal Republic of Germany 2010," the highest official distinction awarded for design in Germany, for the design of the Audi A5. He received the "Compasso d'Oro" (Golden Compass), one of the most prestigious design awards in Italy, in 2011. An international expert panel described Walter de Silva as the "undisputed main protagonist of Italian design" and awarded him the prize for a career spanning over forty years.
De Silva began his professional career at the Fiat Design Centre in Turin in 1972. He joined Studio R. Bonetto in Milan in 1975. De Silva was Head of the Industrial Design and Automobiles Area at the Instituto Idea in Turin from 1979 to 1986. After a short stint working for "Trussardi Design Milano," he switched to Alfa Romeo in 1986, where he was Head of Design until 1998. De Silva established a new design philosophy of the brand with the Alfa Romeo 156 (1997).