VW's New Design Boss Will Design Cars Explicitly For Americans

Design / 14 Comments

With a new design director for North and South America, future VWs might finally cater for the needs of real Americans.

Volkswagen has appointed a new head of design for North and South America, Jose Carlos (JC) Pavone, who will assume responsibility for all design work in the two regions. Pavone is currently the head of design for VW's South American operations, and will thus add North America to his purview.

According to VW, the goal is to strengthen the brand's regional talent strategy and focus on market-specific design and product development.

Why is that important? Well, the needs and design tastes of regions differ immensely. Take the example of Volkswagen's new infotainment systems in the ID.4 and Golf GTI. These feature haptic controls and touch sliders rather than physical volume knobs and have been hugely frustrating for American users.

Yet, VW had to stick with them stateside because "the flavor of the day [in Europe] is to try and be as convenient and modern as possible in terms of touch [control] and sliders," according to VW of America's Hein Schafer.


When Schafer explained this philosophy to CarBuzz, VW also mentioned a new infotainment system was coming, which has been reiterated since. We know a new Tiguan will be revealed this year, utilizing a new infotainment suite with more physical controls, which should appease American buyers a little more.

Pavone won't oversee interior design, but rather exterior design. America is known for preferring larger, more muscular exterior designs compared to the small, dainty style many European manufacturers employ.

The desire for larger vehicles in the US is why VW retained the old Passat long after its global discontinuation and why we get the VW Atlas instead of the European Touareg. Mazda is following a similar philosophy, introducing the CX-90 and a future CX-70 as US-specific models, which are larger than the CX-60 and CX-80 equivalents for Europe.

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VW wants to achieve a 10% market share in the US by 2030, and design will play a crucial role in this pursuit.

"Design will play an even bigger role in tailoring our vehicles to market-specific needs," says Pablo Di Si, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "JC brings a wealth of experience from his time in Germany, the United States, and Brazil, and has a great track record of designing products that resonate with our consumers."

Pavone has already had experience designing cars for the US market, as he worked at VW of America's California design studio from 2011 to 2016 on the sixth-generation Jetta and the aforementioned USDM Passat. He subsequently became head of design for VW's Brazilian arm of operations, where he oversaw the design of the VW Taigo, which has become a European and global model too.


Crossovers will play a huge role in VW's conquest of the American market, with models like the Taos effectively replacing the Golf in the market and with huge demand for the Tiguan.

Hopefully, Pavone's experience will ensure new models cater to American demands.

"I'm very excited to accept this new challenge to lead VW Design in the North and South America Regions," said JC Pavone. "My experience - being born in Sao Paulo, working at HQ in Wolfsburg for seven years, five years at the Design Center California and seven years as design director at VW South America - gives me the right understanding about the trends and requirements from each region. Communication with the Design Headquarters in Wolfsburg is key to the perfect balance between regional preferences and Volkswagen DNA."

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