Giorgetto Giugiaro leaves Italdesign under a cloud

No send-off for legendary designer as Audi acquires remaining 9.9% stake of company

Legendary car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro has left the company he founded  “to dedicate more time to his personal interests”

Legendary car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro has left the company he founded “to dedicate more time to his personal interests”

 

We’ve seen recent ructions at the top of the Volkswagen chain of command, ones big enough to see the corporate demise of the once-untouchable Ferdinand Piech. Now, we seem to be seeing similar ructions in VW’s design department with the departure of the none-more-legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro from the Italdesign company he founded.

Giugiaro himself really needs no introduction, but just in case you don’t know, here’s a quick catch-up on the legendary cars penned by this man and his company since his first design job, as a teenager, creating the beautiful and rare Gordon-Keeble V8.

Since then, it has been classic after classic after classic: the Mk1 VW Golf and Scirocco, the Lotus Esprit S1, the Alfasud, the BMW Nazca prototype, the Maserati Boomerang, the first Fiat Panda, the DeTomaso Mangusta, the Iso Grifo, the Alfa Romeo Brera, the BMW M1, the DeLorean DMC-12. Need we go on?

Sadly though, it seems as if Giugiaro is not getting the send-off his career deserves. In 2010, after three decades of independence, Giugiaro and his son Fabrizio sold a 90.1 per cent stake in Italdesign (which designs an awful lot more than cars) to Audi.

Italian empire

Audi was then in the midst of building up something of an Italian empire, also swallowing up Lamborghini and superbike-maker Ducati, as well as having long, thus-far-unrequited glances at Alfa Romeo.

Giugiaro and his son retired with a 9.9 per cent stake and were regular guests at major Audi events, as well as apparently contributing behind the scenes to Audi and VW’s design efforts.

This week though, Giugiaro and Fabrizio upped and left. No fanfare. None of the big send-off you would expect for two people who, together, have utterly and irrevocably changed the motoring world and influenced, directly or otherwise, so many of the cars we drive today.

A terse statement was issued that Giugiaro was leaving the company he founded “to dedicate more time to his personal interests”. Note, leaving – not retired.

Thus far, Giugiaro himself has not responded to any requests from journalists to answer questions about the departure, saying only that he has “nothing further to add”.

Not the words, one might think, of a man in receipt of a valedictory send-off. The remaining 9.9 per cent of Italdesign held by Giugiaro pére et fils has now been sold to Audi.

It’s the latest in a recent chain of apparent turmoil in the Volkswagen design world. Bentley and Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke was heavily and publicly critical of the recent Lincoln Continental concept car, shown off by Ford.

Donckerwolke accused Lincoln outright of ripping off his design for the Bentley Flying Spur, saying: “I would have called it Flying Spur concept and kept the four round lights.”

A subsequent tweet sarcastically offering to sell Flying Spur tooling to Lincoln was deleted. Donckerwolke has since left VW and gone to Hyundai, where he is seen as the heir apparent to (also ex-VW and Audi) Peter Schreyer.

Are the departures of Donckerwolke, Giugiaro and Piech all linked? Piech and Giugiaro became good friends in their years of working together, while Donckerwolke was repeatedly handed tough “regeneration” projects within VW, such as the first VW-derived Bentley (the Continental GT) and Lamborghinis (the Murcielago and Gallardo).

Is this a clearing out of the Piech lieutenants? Or are there deeper problems in the VW design department?