Hyundai Lures BMW Designer Christopher Chapman to Direct California Design Studio
Of all the good plays that Kia has made in recent years, the best one may have been poaching German designer Peter Schreyer from Volkswagen in 2006, and charging him with making the company’s then-forgettable product line more distinct and more attractive. It worked so well that now Hyundai has gone and picked up a German-luxury-car designer of its very own: BMW’s Christopher Chapman. Chapman is leaving his post as Automotive and Transportation Design Director at BMW Designworks USA in Newbury Park, California, to serve as the chief designer at the Hyundai Design Center in Irvine, California. He will be responsible for overseeing the studio’s production and concept vehicle designs.
Chapman is a native of Pasadena, California, and was educated at the famous Art Center College of Design located in the same town. His first design gig was with Isuzu in 1989, and he joined BMW’s Designworks USA in 1994, remaining with the Bavarians ever since. His most notable design credits at BMW involve some of the brand’s most controversial vehicles, including the original X5, the Z4, and the bulbous, asymmetrical X Coupe concept from 2001.
Don’t expect Hyundais to start sprouting kidney grilles and Bangle butts any time soon, though. The Irvine studio that Chapman will oversee is but one of Hyundai’s design centers, so he won’t have the dictatorial powers that Schreyer has at Kia. Moreover, unlike Kia at the time of Schreyer’s arrival, Hyundai is actually carrying some design momentum already—coincidentally, some see echoes of BMW’s “flame surfacing” in the brand’s current style—and so the company is not likely to make any drastic changes soon. Still, a designer from one of Germany’s most respected car companies could certainly bring a lot to a Korean brand with big ambitions. Just ask Kia.
By Steve Siler