Global Economics

Former Bentley design chief joins Chinese carmaker Geely

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As China’s automakers increasingly resort to new styles to promote sales in the world’s largest automobile market, Geely has engaged Stefan Sielaff, the former design leader of British luxury brand Bentley. According to a statement from Geely, Sielaff will be based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and will be responsible for the design of the company’s domestic Geely and Zeekr brands as well as Lynk & Co and Geometry. He will not be responsible for the design of Volvo and Polestar.

Historically, Chinese automakers released models that resembled those of international brands. However, as sales expanded, many companies, including Geely, Great Wall, and BYD, established their own design studios, usually led by international designers, to create new designs.

Geely, based in Hangzhou, controls Volvo Cars and a 9.7 percent interest in Daimler (OTC: DDAIF), and has moved to more athletic designs to increase car pricing. Sales at rival Changan have increased this year due to more modern designs, while Great Wall’s off-road sports utility vehicles are also popular.

The greater emphasis comes as auto design becomes more difficult, with the shift to electric vehicles and smarter driving systems that require more outside sensors. Didi Global Inc., a Chinese ride-hailing company, recently hired Matthew Swann, who formerly worked for Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM) and Great Wall, to head the external design of its vehicles. Frank Wu, an ex-Cadillac designer, has been hired by Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU).