Walter de Silva retires: the Italian soul behind Volkswagen

Walter de Silva said that the more limitations you find a designer, the more creativity you need. And that, as in an opera, or a symphony, by personal interpretation of the musicians and the coordination of the director, the work has to be recognizable. I can think of few better examples than this to define the work of a designer in a German manufacturer, always in line with the obsession for the perfectionism – that much less is a cliché of German engineering. Walter was, without a doubt, the Italian soul behind Volkswagen. And will never be more. Retires leaving behind a legacy that many would envy.

Walter landed in the Volkswagen Group for 17 years, starting his career in FIAT, the I. D. E. A. Institute and Alfa Romeo.

it Is said fast. 17 years have passed since Walter Maria de Silva landed in Volkswagen. Natural of Lombardy, it is not surprising that his professional career was linked to Fiat, the brand turin-based just a short drive away from the town where he was born. With 21 years working in the Centro Stile Fiat, to spend a half-decade later to the study I. D. E. A. Institute, of which he would return again to the Fiat Group in becoming the mid-eighties in the head of design for Alfa Romeo. A signing that nor much less was trivial. We think that in more than a decade in the brand biscione would have to face great challenges, as the particular aesthetic revolution, as lived by Alfa Romeo in the nineties.

Among the works directed by Walter (because let’s not forget that the design work does not depend on just one person but a team), always remember the Alfa Romeo 156, 166 and 147.


Walter was to become the particular lever of SEAT, and would be responsible for products that are so important and personal as the Audi Q7, the R8 or the A5.

it Was in 1998 when Ferdinand Piëch had a brilliant idea, to inject sportiness and emotion SEAT turning to Walter de Silva in his particular turning point. In those years, would designs to suit all tastes. Prototypes are spectacular, such as the Salsa and Tango, bestsellers as Ibiza 3 and Lion 2, and perhaps an unfortunate obsession with the concept minivan that is escenificaría in Altea and the much criticised third generation of the SEAT Toledo (in 2006, an interview would take Walter the phrase “we did what we could“). Which leads us to remember, once more, what is already mentioned in the first paragraph.

And then came his first big promotion, the responsibility of guiding the future of the old Audi Group, SEAT, Lamborghini, and, missing more, Audi. A good time to remember the Audi A6 of 2004, and other works, so that they could feel more liberated to lead the design of creations that left of zero, think of the first Audi Q7, Audi A5, and another that we can never forget, the Audi R8. In those years, even, would embark on a project that could be great, or a heresy disproportionate, the reinterpretation of the Miura with a prototype – Lamborghini Miura Concept – that many today still leaving us speechless.

In 2007, with the appointment of Martin Winterkorn as CEO Volkswagen Group, Walter would assume the responsibility of directing the aesthetic evolution of the whole group. Words older. And today, in November 2015, and just a few weeks after that Winterkorn gave up its charge by the crisis of the fraud of the TDI, Walter also leaves with him. Of course, some very different circumstances.


Walter de Silva continued the trail marked by Giugiaro for Volkswagen. It came to the design direction of the group with Winterkorn, and it is practically up with him.

Walter Maria de Silva also signed other models of Volkswagen. The second remake of the Beetle, the Polo of 2009, the Volkswagen Golf VI and VII, the Passat CC, the new Scirocco and the up!, they are also created under his direction. But above all, and first of all, Walter would also have the responsibility to infuse personality of each brand, something that was not easy when you have before you the challenge to mark the distance between such a variety of emblems, and products, often with interests that are frankly overlapping.

Silva would give continuity to a tradition of the “italianità” of the germans – so called Volkswagen – which in its day was a gala Giorgetto Giugiaro. Walter will continue united with the Volkswagen Group, as a counselor. What’s next? We don’t know. The Volkswagen Group is facing a new stage of really important changes, that will happen regardless of the consequences of the case of the TDI in the German giant. To this day arises, even, that the position of the design direction of the whole group disappears, within the meaning of the relative independence – and often synergy – that have already reached the design departments of each of the brands with the work of Walter since 2007.

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