OBITUARY: Peter Horbury (1950 – 2023)

Peter Horbury, a well known automotive designer associated especially with Volvo, has passed away at the age of 73 in China.

The British designer who was part of the design team at the Geely Group is remembered for having evolved the design language of the Swedish carmaker. In the early 1990s, when Horbury began his full-time job as design director at Volvo, he set about formalising ‘design language’ for the company’s products, in the process altering the staid image its boxy cars had for decades.

Volvo 780 and C70
As design director of Volvo, Peter Horbury transformed the design language of the Swedish carmaker, moving away from the boxy forms to more curved ones.

Changing the boxy Volvo look
He ‘threw out the box and kept the toy’, as he said, when he created the original C70 Coupe in 1996, at the same time spawning a generation of new products that looked very different from their predecessors. Thereafter, Volvos entered the 21st century with forward looking designs that continue to this day.

Horbury’s career spanned almost 50 years, from the time he started at Chrysler in 1974. He worked with Ford UK for 2 years and did consultancy work for Volvo before he was appointed to be its design director in 1991.

When Volvo became part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group in the early 2000s, Horbury became design head and oversaw work Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover as well. He is also credited with having created the global ‘One Ford’ design theme during Alan Mullaly’s tenure.

Peter Horbury

After returning to Volvo in 2009, he became Senior Vice-President Design when Geely bought over the company. He oversaw design for various brands of the group (including Proton), and finally took on a guiding role at Lotus when it was acquired by Geely as well.

“Peter’s timeless design is his legacy, and it can be found on roads across the world today, enjoyed by millions of drivers. His many friends, colleagues and admirers at Lotus, across the wider Geely business, and in the global automotive industry, will all miss him greatly,” said Feng Qingfeng, CEO, Group Lotus.

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