It all started back in 2006 when Kia Motors announced that Peter Schreyer would become its new Chief Design Officer. At the time, this move seemed equally audacious and puzzling: smart hire by Kia boss Eui-sun Chung, the son of Mong-koo Chung, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Hyundai Motor Group (HMG), but perhaps foolish for Schreyer. After all, what could the smaller automaker offer besides handsome compensation, frequent flyer miles, and a top-down corporate culture? Schreyer, a legit rock star in the design world (with the back-in-black wardrobe to match), already had an impressive r sum that listed icons such as the VW Golf, New Beetle, and Audi TT. He was on the short list to replace VW Group’s design chief, Walter de Silva. Surely, Schreyer had nothing to prove.
His fast start suggested otherwise. At the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, Schreyer introduced the Kia “tiger nose” design cue and began unifying all styling in this aggressive new direction. Meanwhile, seemingly unrelated moves were afoot at HMG; at the 2007 New York auto show, the Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan made its debut. In 2011, Hyundai Motor Europe started durability testing at the N rburgring, and in 2012, HMG quietly established the high-performance development N division, ostensibly named for HMG’s Namyang, Korea, R&D center.
After a string of successful designs, Kia named Schreyer president in December 2012, making him the first non-Korean president (of seven) at HMG. A few months later, he added head of design for all of HMG to his title and list of duties. That same year, HMG expanded its European testing capabilities by establishing a permanent R&D facility at the N rburgring. Then things really began to accelerate.
In another startling coup in April 2015, HMG poached Albert Biermann, a 30-year veteran of BMW and boss of its legendary M division. His new job? Leading high-performance vehicle development and testing for all of HMG, including Genesis—which was subsequently announced as a stand-alone luxury brand that November.
Any doubts about HMG’s commitment to its new premium marque were quelled by the hiring of Bentley head of design Luc Donckerwolke and Lamborghini director of brand and design Manfred Fitzgerald. When Bentley’s head of exterior and advanced design, SangYup Lee, and Bugatti Chiron exterior designer Alexander Selipanov joined the Genesis team in 2016 and 2017, respectively, the world officially took notice.