Ex Jaguar Land Rover Design Chief Takes Helm At Audi, Touts Timeless Designs

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After spending 10 years at the helm of Audi design, Marc Lichte is stepping down to take a new (and unspecified) within the company. Starting June 1, Massimo Frascella will oversee the styling of all new models bearing the fabled Four Rings. The architect behind the Land Rover Defender, Discovery, Velar, and Range Rover designs is now focusing on Audi’s upcoming electric vehicles.

Audi has committed to launching only EVs from 2026. As the models with combustion engines set for release until then have already been designed, Massimo Frascella will concentrate on zero-emission models. This doesn’t mean ICE cars will be neglected; facelifts are still planned for gasoline, diesel, and plug-in hybrid models. Audi has announced its intention to produce conventionally powered vehicles until 2032.

What to expect? The new Head of Audi Design aims to pen cars that are “free from superfluous ornaments and do not merely follow trends.” He goes on to state that future models will benefit from “a timeless and sophisticated design language.” Company CEO Gernot Döllner is confident that Massimo Frascella can create an “unmistakable and emotional design language.”

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In recent years, Audi has provided glimpses into the design of its upcoming models through various “Sphere” concepts. Pictured here is the Grandsphere, anticipated to transform into an electric vehicle serving as the flagship A8’s successor in the fullsize luxury sedan category. Additionally, there were other intriguing concepts, including an open-top Skysphere, a minivan-like Urbansphere, and a high-riding Activesphere fastback that could potentially evolve into a pickup truck.

It remains to be seen whether Massimo Frascella will leave his mark on production cars based on these concepts. Whatever the case may be, the 52-year-old Italian designer, who previously worked for Bertone, Ford, and Kia, says he favors “simplicity.” From this, we can deduce that Audi will take a different approach than BMW, which has lately been producing overly complicated designs that some fans have not appreciated, to say the least…

He has a demanding job ahead given how vast Audi’s lineup has become over the years. That said, model cuts are on the way. The TT has been discontinued, and the R8 will follow suit next month, while the A1 and Q2 won’t be renewed for another generation.

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Elsewhere, a range-topping SUV with three-row seating, potentially called Q9, is all but confirmed to compete with the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS. Meanwhile, the fully electric Q6 E-Tron is due in 2024, with a swoopy Sportback version not far behind.