The Park Ji Sung of the car design world is heading home. Hyundai has announced the signing of SangYup Lee, previously Head of Exterior and Advanced Design at Bentley. In his new post as the Vice President of Styling at Hyundai Design Center (from June), Lee will be reunited with former boss Luc Donckerwolke, who was Bentley’s design chief before taking up the role as global head of Hyundai design.

Described as a “world famous luxury car and sports car designer” and “the most successful Korean designer in the global automotive industry,” Lee, 46, will help Hyundai’s fresh Genesis premium brand establish its own design identity and enhance design competitiveness.

Building on his past experience of designing various top luxury cars, Lee will be in charge of design strategies and directions and lead design innovations in areas of interior and exterior design, colour and materials of Hyundai Motor and Genesis with Donckerwolke, who also heads Hyundai’s new Prestige Design Division.

“The innovative design and surprising growth of Hyundai has always made me proud as a Korean while I worked overseas. Now, I want to contribute in creating world-leading automobile designs for both Hyundai and the Genesis brand,” Lee said.

“Lee has proven himself as one of the world’s best automobile designers in the global platform. His design philosophy to pursue new challenges and innovations matches the DNA of Hyundai Motor,” Donckerwolke added.

What’s the hype about, you ask. After graduating from Hongik University Department of Sculpture in Korea and Art Center College of Design in California, Lee began his career at Pininfarina and Porsche Design Center. In 1999, he joined GM and designed concept cars such as the Camaro Concept (which everyone knows as Bumblebee in Transformers) and the Corvette Stingray Concept.

From GM, Lee joined Volkswagen Group of America as chief designer in charge of VW, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini design. He has been the Head of Exterior and Advanced Design at Bentley since end-2012.


Hyundai has big plans for its Genesis luxury brand and has been poaching high level execs from the Volkswagen Group. At the 2016 New York show in March, it revealed the Genesis New York Concept, a premium compact sedan showcar that previews an upcoming BMW 3 Series rival.

Hyundai-Kia group design chief Peter Schreyer has said that they’re looking “straight past Japan” (that’s Lexus, Infiniti and Acura) with Genesis and taking direct aim at the Germans. This will be achieved via design.

Lee, who told Reuters that he was first approached by Hyundai two years ago, said he and Donckerwolke plan to design Genesis cars from a clean sheet of paper. “For decades, luxury brands such as Bentley, Aston Martin and Maserati have been about possession. In the future, as disruptive technologies kick in, luxury is going to be about experience. People are going to look for a special experience rather than something special to own,” he added.