Celebrated car designer Peter Horbury has passed away aged 73 whilst on a business trip to China.
Best known for transforming Volvo’s conservative design language in the 1990s, Horbury was a veteran designer with a career spanning fifty years, with notable stints at Ford in the 2000s before being recruited to head the Geely Groups' overall brand strategy, where his responsibilities included Lynk & Co, Polestar and latterly, as executive vice-president of design for Lotus.
A proud native of Northumberland, Horbury studied Industrial Design at Newcastle’s Royal College of Arts. After graduating, Horbury furthered his education in 1972 by earning a scholarship from Chrysler to London’s prestigious RCA, under the tutelage of a burgeoning Peter Stevens. In 1974, Horbury began his professional career for Chrysler UK, gaining valuable experience before joining Ford in 1977, contributing to the radical Sierra.
His first stint at Volvo followed, which lasted six years before Horbury returned to the UK under the employment of MGA, an independent design and prototype manufacturer, where he influenced work for Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, BMW, Ford and even the aerospace sector.
In 1991, Horbury made a significant career move by re-joining Volvo as the brand's Design Director. Under his leadership, Volvo underwent a major design transformation, moving away from its traditionally boxy and rigid designs to more dynamic and contemporary forms. Horbury played a vital role in creating the "New Volvo Design Language," which introduced sleek curves, pronounced shoulder lines, and a focus on safety and Scandinavian design principles. On the back of Peter’s work, Volvo's image was transformed and sales sky-rocketed.
After spending more than a decade with Volvo, Horbury was promoted to Executive Director of Design at Ford’s short-lived Premier Automotive Group (PAG), which included Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo. In 2004, Horbury moved to the United States as Design Director of North America (overseeing the 12th generation F-150 pick-up, Lincoln and numerous creative concept cars) before once again returning to Volvo in 2009.
Following a takeover by Geely in 2010, Horbury was again promoted to Senior Vice President of Design and placed in charge of the entire portfolio of Geely Automotive Group. Over the next decade, he played a crucial role in establishing the design identity of Geely, Lynk & Co, and Polestar, earning global brand recognition. He even found time to shape the new EV London Taxi.
Despite such professional success, Peter was also universally adored for his down-to-earth demeanour and complete lack of ego, something of a rarity in the design industry. There is little doubt his work will continue to influence the next generation of ambitious car designers. We extend our sincere condolences to those affected by his passing.