Luc Donckerwolke, a Volkswagen Group design veteran and chief of design at Bentley, has parted ways with the German conglomerate. And nobody is quite sure why.
Automotive News and other outlets report that 49-year-old Donckerwolke, who penned the Bentley Flying Spur, the Audi R8 Le Mans and the Lamborghini Gallardo and Murceilago, is departing the VW Group today.
Company officials haven’t said why Donckerwolke is leaving but tersely praised his work in the past. The head of Volkswagen’s design center Stefan Sielaff will take his spot at Bentley.
Normally this would be a thoroughly uninteresting and insider-y bit of auto industry news, save for one fact: in late March, Donckerwolke was the guy who called out Lincoln and accused them of ripping off his designs to create the new Continental.
Donckerwolke made no attempts to hide how he felt about the Continental. He posted his thoughts on a Lincoln designer’s Facebook page, then his own Facebook page, then went off in an interview with Car and Driver:
Asked to elaborate, Donckerwolke told us: “This is not respectable. Such a copy is giving a bad name to the car-design world.” And his exterior design chief, Sangyup Lee, who described the Lincoln as “a joke, seriously,” added, “It is very disappointing, especially for an exclusive brand like Lincoln.”
Is this a reason Donckerwolke parted ways with his longtime employer today? Who knows for certain, but I’m not shocked if it had something to do with it — or everything to do with it. According to the always plugged-in Car Design News, Donckerwolke’s departure was amicable, but also a total shock. He had been suggested as a replacement for soon-to-retire VW Group design head Walter de Silva.
But can you blame Donckerwolke for going off the way he did? The Continental is a blatant Bentley ripoff, full stop. All shade aside from him calling Lincoln a “premium brand,” this is the kind of shit you expect from a Chinese automaker, not an American one with some actual good design heritage in their past.
I say good on Donckerwolke for telling it like it is in the smarm-tacular, always-play-nice auto industry. But he may have paid a big price for his words.
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