Volkswagen Allegedly Changed Its Lead Designer Because of Styling Preferences

According to an unconfirmed report, the Volkswagen Group has decided to change the chief designer of the VW brand, and it happened quicker than usual. The news is allegedly set to be announced by February 1, 2023, as the new Volkswagen design chief starts their new role within the company.
Volkswagen ID. Life concept 40 photos
Photo: Volkswagen
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The strange part about the news? Some reports claim that the shift was done because VW's new CEO is not happy with some designs. Those reports may be incomplete, incorrect, or both, and we have no way of knowing for sure at this point.

As some of you are aware, Volkswagen shifted a few things in its leadership last year, and several brand chiefs were changed as the CEO of the Volkswagen Group itself was changed.

Now, it should be noted that changes like these happen from time to time in large companies, and we cover them because they are important – as the people at the head of these companies make decisions that change the cars that will be on the market in the next few years.

Vehicle designers can make or break a brand, and choosing the right look should be something that is decided with great care. The Volkswagen brand, for example, is known for its conservative designs, which were made specially to please as many people as possible. While refraining from being outright beautiful or futuristic, VWs would try to please as many folks as possible – and this worked.

VW ID\. LIFE Concept
Photo: VW
In recent years, the core brand of the VW Group has gone ahead and tried a few design eccentricities or experiments, if you will, which made things like the Golf 8, the T-Roc Cabriolet, and the ID. Buzz.

The ID. 3 is also one of those products, along with the entire ID. range if you think about it, and all were designed several years ago, with the company's board having the final word when the time came to approve their entry into production.

You should know that the development of a vehicle is decided not just on sketches and promises but also on complex calculations that experienced automakers use to know beforehand how many units they need to sell to have a profitable product.

The firm will also determine things like what that vehicle should be like to make as many people want to buy one, along with ensuring that as many people go out and do so. It does no good for an automaker to have a desirable vehicle that few people can afford and lose millions on it.

VW ID\. LIFE Concept
Photo: VW
We already know that the design of the entire production Volkswagen ID series, from the ID.3., ID. 4, ID. Buzz, and the upcoming ID.6, were handled by Klaus Zyciora. In case you do not recall, Klaus Zyciora used to be the head of Volkswagen Group Design until January 2023, but he has been replaced in this position by Michael Mauer, the design chief of the Porsche brand.

In case you have not heard about the 61-year-old German automotive designer, Zyciora was initially known to the world as Klaus Bischoff before adopting his spouse's surname, and his first big project within Volkswagen was the interior of the Golf IV.

It should be noted that Klaus Zyciora was also the man who green-lighted the designs of the Golf's sixth, seventh, and eighth generations, so he knew how to be both revolutionary and conservative during his 34-year career with VW.

Now, the reports claim that Jozef Kaban, the head of design of the Volkswagen brand, has allegedly been replaced this week. Kaban used to report to Klaus Zyciora since January 2020, when he returned to the German conglomerate after a three-year stint at the BMW Group, including six months at Rolls-Royce.

Jozef Kaban \- lead designer for the core BMW brand
Photo: BMW Group
Previously, the Czech automotive designer had been with the Volkswagen Group since 1999, where he worked for VW, Audi, Bugatti, and Škoda. Kaban signed the design of cars ranging from the Volkswagen Lupo to the Bugatti Veyron, literally, as he was the lead exterior designer on both models.

With the context hopefully clear to everyone, a recent report from Germany's Automobilwoche citing unnamed corporate sources claims that Volkswagen's CEO was reportedly not happy with two projects that Kaban had worked on: the ID. Life concept, and the Project Trinity.

The unnamed sources quoted in the report had explained that the ID. Life was deemed too "retro-futuristic," while the Trinity Concept was supposed to be turned into a crossover from its sedan origins.

Interestingly, Volkswagen has previously announced plans to postpone its Project Trinity vehicle from 2026 to 2028 or 2029. The delay would be sufficient to enable a complete re-design if this was something that was decided behind closed doors, but we might not learn about that soon.

VW ID\. LIFE Concept
Photo: VW
In the case of the ID. Life concept vehicle, we might never know if the Volkswagen brand CEO liked it or if there was any discussion regarding its look between Thomas Schaefer and Jozef Kaban, as it may appear from the German report that it is based on what is described as corporate sources.

The same report notes that Kaban will stay within the Volkswagen Group, but it is not clear what position he will take and that his replacement will be Andreas Mindt, the boss of Bentley's design department and the man responsible for the Batur.

The same report explains that Mindt's place at the helm of Bentley design will be taken by Tobias Suehlmann, who used to be Bentley's head of exterior design. While the changes within the VW brand may be correct, we would not bet our lunch money on the reasons that some unnamed corporate sources have presented to German media.
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Editor's note: For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows various images of Volkswagen production vehicles, concept vehicles, and key people mentioned in the article.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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