Luc Donckerwolke
Luc Donckerwolke|Hyundai
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Luc Donckerwolke, Hyundai’s chief designer, steps down

Well known across brands and genres, the 55-year-old Belgian car designer was instrumental in overhauling the styling at Hyundai, Kia and Genesis

Sudipto Chaudhury

The former head of Hyundai, Genesis, and later Kia design, Luc Donckerwolke, has left the Korean automaker after four years, citing ‘personal reasons’ for his departure. Donckerwolke took over as global design head for Hyundai in 2016, leaving his post as head of Bentley design, and went on to replace Peter Schreyer at Kia two years later.

"It’s been an honour and privilege to contribute to the shaping of the future of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis”, Donckerwolke said in a statement announcing his resignation, adding “their audacious and progressive attitude has allowed me to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo.”

The Belgian designer studied at the Art Centre College in Vevey, Switzerland, before taking up his first job at Peugeot in 1990, where he stayed for two years before moving to Volkswagen.

It was here that he rose to true prominence, as his 23-year stint saw him work on cars across genres all over the Volkswagen Auto Group's brands. He was initially with Audi, and designed the first-gen A4 Avant (1995). Soon, he shifted to Skoda, and penned the modern first-gen Skoda Octavia (1997) and Fabia (1999). He then returned to Audi and designed the A2 (1999).

1995 Audi A4 Avant
1997 Skoda Octavia
1999 Audi A2
1999 Skoda Fabia

Around this time, Audi bought Lamborghini from Malaysian investment group Mycom Setdco and Indonesian group V'Power Corporation. Donckerwolke then designed the Lamborghini Diablo VT, the marque’s resurgent model (produced 1998 to 2000), followed by the Murcielago (considered the Diablo’s successor) in 2001, and the Gallardo, which went on to be the brand’s best-selling model, with over 14,000 sold in its ten-year production run, starting 2004. That trio helped Donckerwolke earn a Red Dot design award in 2003, as well as a position as design director at SEAT in 2005.

1998 Lamborghini Diablo VT
2001 Lamborghini Murcielago
2004 Lamborghini Gallardo

And while on the topic of the Gallardo, Donckerwolke also designed the Audi R8, which he showcased as the Le Mans Quattro concept at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show. The R8 used the same 5-litre engine displacement as the Gallardo, but had different cylinder heads, twin turbocharging and Fuel Stratified Injection or FSI technology. Donckerwolke was also instrumental in the design of the Bentley Continental Flying Spur (2005), and in 2012, also took over as the design director at Bentley.

Bentley Flying Spur
Audi R8

As mentioned before, Donckerwolke joined Hyundai in 2015 and was a key advocate in shaping up the design theme of Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury car brand. His contributions across the four years spent at Hyundai include the Kona and Palisade, and at Genesis, the G80 and G90 sedans and the GV80 crossover.

Hyundai Kona
Hyundai Palisade
Genesis G80
Genesis G90
Genesis GV80

At the moment, Donckerwolke’s successor has not been officially named. However, it is likely that Sang Yup Lee, head of the Hyundai Design Center and senior VP, Hyundai Motor Corporation, will lead the design team for the Hyundai and Genesis brands. Like Donckerwolke, Lee too was at VW, serving as Chief Exterior Designer of VW/Audi’s Advanced studio in California prior to joining Hyundai.

Lastly, Karim Habib, head of design, Kia Motors will continue leading Hyundai’s sister brand.

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