Did You Know...
* Audi is one of the oldest automotive brands still on the market today, with a car-making history dating back to 1899?
* Audi actually is the Latin translation of founder August Horch's surname, which means 'listen' in German?
* Auto Union AG, later to become today's Audi AG, was formed in 1932 out of the then existing brands Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer?
* That these brands are still represented today by Audi's four rings?
*The Audi Neckarsulm plant was once the home of German motorcycle and car manufacturer NSU before NSU became part of the Audi group in 1969?
* Since the beginning of modern car production in 1949, Audi has produced more than 18.5 million vehicles?
* Audi is again going for a record sales year with more than 463,500 cars already sold in the first half of 2006?
* Audi's revolutionary Quattro all-wheel-drive was banned from several touring car championships because it was too dominating?
* 85 percent of all Audis sold in the US are equipped with Quattro?
* Audi started the diesel boom in 1989 when presenting the first successful implementation of a direct-injection diesel engine into a passenger car with the Audi 100 TDI?
* Since then, Audi has sold more than three million TDI-powered cars?

Walter de'Silva
We chat with the VW Group's new head of corporate design
*Born in Milan, de'Silva's family includes an architect father and a graphic designer brother. He worked for Fiat and Alfa Romeo before being hired by VW. The VW Group includes Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti.

ec: Your career in automotive design spans 35 years, working for various manufacturers in many roles and now as chief of design for the powerful Volkswagen Group. What drives you to be inspired each morning?

Wd'S: My motivation and enthusiasm first and foremost comes from my love for cars. It's my passion, my life. I enjoy what I do. I am also motivated with each new project. It doesn't matter what-big car, small car, sport, luxury, this brand, that brand-none of that really matters. That's not what's important to me. It's the challenge of a new mission, a new commitment. This is the reason I accepted the position at Volkswagen. It's exciting for me.

ec: What is your first order of business as head of design?

Wd'S: For Volkswagen, we have to define the criteria for the future, to create something that will fit the brand, something with emotion and great personality. It will be something you will like, I assure you.

ec: Volkswagen has a long history with Italian designers, including Giorgetto Giugiaro who created the original Golf and Scirocco. This relationship between Italian design and German engineering has worked well at Volkswagen and for you at Audi. How do you intend to rekindle some of the early Volkswagen magic?

Wd'S: Trust me, there's no magic formula. For me, it's about creating something you believe in. Something you can be proud of. That's the magic.

ec: California is a mecca for developing styles and trends that may eventually inspire what we see on the road. Do you see the California design studio playing a larger role in VW's evolving design?

Wd'S: Yes, they will be very instrumental. The United States is a very important market for us and what we learn from our California design team is always a key consideration. It is important we define the product to make the right connection with a new generation of customers.

ec: Is there such thing as a perfectly designed car?

Wd'S: In conceptual form, perhaps. But it's not as simple for production. Because the design initiative is very complicated, you have to design the product, technology, production, cost. Perfection is very difficult when it comes to production. Concept cars generally look most like the original sketch. In production, there is usually a compromise in that design. The R8 is very close to perfection, however. The design, the engineering, the complete architecture of the car. Everything fits very well.

ec: We hear you are also quite proud of the A5.

Wd'S: This is true. For me, the A5 is very close to perfect. I love everything about this car. Its general shape, its details; it's so balanced in its proportions. It's sensual and at the same time dynamic. There's nothing about it I dislike. It's the most beautiful design of my career.

ec: Is there one particular A5 feature you are pleased with most?

Wd'S: No, not really. Everything from the front, the rear, the shoulder, the silhouette, pleases me-even the smallest details.

ec: The A5 is more angular with a stronger shoulder line than we've seen in past Audi models. Is this a glimpse of what we can expect in future models?

Wd'S: We have sharp and precise lines, but nothing on the surface is flat. The surface is very round and muscular. It's true we have a car with lots of strong character lines, but in the end it's a very simple design overall. Everything is clean. The rest of the model line will develop as it should.

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