Donckerwolke Out, Sielaff In As Bentley's Chief Designer

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

Bentley design boss Luc Donckerwolke parted ways with the automaker Thursday, with VW Group interior designer boss Stefan Sielaff taking the helm.

Donckerwolke penned numerous designs for the VW Group brand lineup in his 23 years of service with the company, Car and Driver reports, including the first-gen Škoda Fabia and Octavia, Audi A2, Lamborghini Murciélago, and recently the Bentley Bentayga, Continental GT, and EXP10 Speed 6.

The designer also never held back on his thoughts about automotive design, such as when he slammed Lincoln for copying the Bentley Flying Spur for its Continental concept, which debuted at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. After posting his thoughts on Lincoln designer David Woodhouse’s Facebook, as well as his own account, Donckerwolke and exterior design boss Sangyup Lee laid it all out for 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.”

His comments were supported by his colleagues and the top brass at VW Group at the time, but the latter may be the reason for Donckerwolke’s departure. Though he was said to have left Bentley on amicable terms, Jalopnik posits his open criticism of the Lincoln Continental may have played some role — if not the exact role — in the designer’s sudden departure, which stunned the automotive design world despite the amicable exit. Either way, VW Group nor Donckerwolke offered an explanation for parting ways.

Taking his place as Bentley’s head of design is Sielaff, who will take on the role beginning July 1. He will report to chief engineer Rolf Frech — and not, according to Autoblog, Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer — while also maintaining his current role for the overall group, where his boss is chief designer Walter de’ Silva.

Speaking of de’ Silva, it was suggested Donckerwolke would have been among those who would have been chosen to fill de’ Silva’s role once the latter called it a day. Other possible candidates included Sielaff and de’ Silva’s preferred choice, Wolfgang Egger. Whether VW Group will either find his replacement from within the company, from the outside, or bother at all remains up in the air at this time.

[Image credit: Bentley]

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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4 of 11 comments
  • Chicago Dude Chicago Dude on Jun 06, 2015

    His comments kept Lincoln in the spotlight far longer than they would have on their own, and can be summarized as "I don't like the way you got here, but welcome to the club." I'm sure his bosses suggested that he leave the public comments to the marketing department.

  • NeilM NeilM on Jun 07, 2015

    "Donckerwolke," it was such a fun name to say out loud.

    • See 1 previous
    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jun 08, 2015

      @Lorenzo Nobody cares about that any more!

  • Scott Miata for the win.
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  • SCE to AUX I prefer original, no matter what the car is. If the car has some value, then an electric drivetrain lowers its value. But if it's just a used car, why spend a fortune to install an electric drivetrain?