MUNICH, Germany ― “Hyundai Kia chairman Chung Mong-koo had a vision: how to raise the level of Korean car companies,” said Peter Schreyer, Hyundai and Kia’s chief design executive, comparing one of Korea’s top business tycoons with visionary CEOs and artists such as Steve Jobs, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.
Chung Mong-koo is the chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, which encompasses the Kia brand.
In a rare interview, Schreyer spoke about his life at Hyundai and in Korea in a documentary aired recently by 3sat Mediathek, one of Germany’s top broadcasting stations.
|Peter Schreyer, chief design officer of Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors (Bloomberg)|
Saying he has never once regretted leaving Germany to work for Hyundai Motor Group and Kia Motors, Schreyer expressed his deep gratitude toward the Korean carmaker for recognizing his talent and giving him a chance to add value.
The 60-year-old designer said his remaining designing goal is to clothe Hyundai and Kia cars in a brand and identity that distinguishes it from all others.
“In the past, Kia really had no identity. There was nothing conspicuous about the brand,” Schreyer said.
The documentary said the designer played a significant role in reversing the situation, calling him a “superstar” at Kia.
Schreyer was recruited by Kia in 2007, and has led the success of the K Series, one of the carmaker’s most successful lineups.
Noting that Hyundai and Kia, despite being under the same roof for decades, still have opposing brand identities, he compared Kia to snowflakes and Hyundai to water.
“Kia is like a piece of construction, while Hyundai flows,” he said.
Schreyer also said he tries to spend as much time as possible in Seoul.
The top designer said felt he needed to make the effort to meet more people within Hyundai and Kia, especially because due to the hierarchical workplace culture, young employees found it difficult to approach seniors if they are not their direct superiors.
Having a glass of wine and talking with them whenever he could was his way of reaching out, Schreyer said.
He added that the world was now ready for Hyundai, saying that even premium brands such as Volkswagen were now all rivals, along with those in the U.S., Japan and even Europe.
To fellow and younger designers, Schreyer’s message was to never be afraid to take on challenges, because otherwise, it’s impossible to achieve anything.
Last but not least, he spoke of the vast and rapid success the country has achieved over the years, adding that he had stood witness to further development during the past seven years he has spent in Korea.
By Kim Ji-hyun, Korea Herald correspondent