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CAR confidential: Transfer proves good business

Would you quit a job as Manchester United manager to run Luton Town? I only ask because at the recent Geneva Motor Show I ran into someone who’d done the automotive equivalent: ace designer Peter Schreyer. He quit Audi – a rising star in the premier league these days – and took a job with second-division Kia back in 2006. Talk about chalk and cheese.

Nobody laughed when he accepted the post as the Koreans’ design boss, however. Sure there would have been a generous package and all the trappings that come with global chiefdom.

But what really drove Schreyer’s decision was the latent potential in Kia, one of Europe’s fastest growing and most interesting brands.

It’s churning out new products like a battery hen; we’ll see a Sportage facelift this summer, the new Soul urban city car at this autumn’s Paris Motor Show, and next year ushers in a new Sorento and mini-MPV. All need designing and the Koreans aren’t afraid to throw the kitchen sink at their new-model plans. You can see why Schreyer’s happy working for a company in the ascendancy.

He doesn’t yet have a name for the new Kia look he’s carving out with the Cee’d and new Soul, but he lets on a couple of trade secrets. “We refer to a tiger face – I would like all our cars around the world to have the same feeling, a similar face,” he says.

He doodles a tiger’s head in my notepad to illustrate the point, the car’s air intakes and grille mimicking the facial details of the biggest cat of all. It seems to be working. After years in the stylistic wilderness, the latest Kias – especially the sporty Pro_cee’d – bear comparison with the best European designs.

German style, Korean prices… Sounds like a classic FA Cup upset. Good transfer, Mr Schreyer.

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