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Chery picks Porsche designer

Going east: China’s Chery has recruited Porsche’s Hakan Saracoglu to come up with something better looking than its homegrown J1 and J11.

Porsche designer recruited by Chery as Chinese motor companies raise styling stakes

Chery logo26 Feb 2013

PORSCHE designer Hakan Saracoglu has become the latest western car designer to be lured east, in this case to China’s biggest car exporter, Chery Motor.

According to Car Design News, Turkish-born Mr Saracoglu will join former Ford and General Motors designer James Hope at the Chinese car company as it attempts to find its own styling direction.

Mr Saracoglu, best known for penning the exterior designs of the previous-generation Porsche 987-series Boxster and Cayman and the 918 Spyder, will be in charge of Chery’s Shanghai design studio, reporting to design director Mr Hope.

He joins a growing band of ex-pat car designers working for Chinese companies, mainly in the Shanghai region or commuting from bases in Europe.

Others already on Chinese payrolls include former Ford and Volvo design director Peter Horbury (now head of Geely design), former Mini designer Gert Volker Hildebrand (Qorus), former Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi designer Peter Arcadipane (BYD-Daimler’s Denzo sub-brand), former Mitsubishi and MG Rover designer Anthony Williams-Kenny (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) and veteran Ferrari designer Leonardo Fiorvanti (Beijing Auto), who is credited with creating legendary models including the Daytona, Dino and F40.

 center imageFrom top: 2008 Porsche Boxter Porsche 918 prototype.

General Motors also has a large group of international designers working at its Pan Asia Technical Automotive Centre – a joint venture with SAIC, China’s largest motor company. These include former Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz, who drew the Chevrolet/Holden Aveo/Barina.

Like many Chinese motor companies, Chery has been accused of copying western designs, with GM taking it to court over the design of the Chery QQ, saying it mimicked the Daewoo Matiz. The lawsuit was settled in 2005.

Realising that such cars would not go unchallenged in foreign export markets, Chinese companies have frequently hired European design houses such as Pininfarina to come up with original designs.

But increasingly, these companies are creating their own design capability led by overseas talent, perhaps inspired by the design-led success of companies such as South Korea’s Kia through its high-profile recruit from Volkswagen and Audi, Peter Schreyer.

Mr Saracoglu started his car design career at Ford of Europe’s Cologne design centre in 1993, having a hand in the Puma, second-generation Focus and Mondeo.

He switched to Porsche in 1998, spending 15 years there working on cars such as the GT2 and GT2 RS variants of the 997-series 911.

At Chery, he will head a team of 30 designers in the Shanghai studio of the state-owned company based in Anhui Province, about 200km west of Shanghai.

Last year, Chery exported 184,000 vehicles, almost as many as the next two biggest exporters – Geely and Great Wall – combined.

Chery has also signed a joint-venture agreement with Tata to built Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles in China.

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