SAIC to Expand UK Design Studio, Appoints New Design Director
SAIC has announced plans to expand significantly its European Design Centre, based at the company’s Longbridge headquarters, the SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre (SMTC UK). At the same time, SAIC has confirmed the appointment of a new UK Design Director, Martin Uhlarik.
Following a total investment of £1.5m in the facility by SAIC, the European Design Centre is to double in size to more than 2000 m2. The investment also allows new software and equipment to be installed in the studio, including a state-of-the-art visualisation suite, increased modelling facilities and a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) five-axis milling machine. When the expansion is complete, the design department will be able to work on up to five full-size models at the same time.
The expansion of the European Design Centre comes at the same time as significant development of SAIC’s Shanghai studio as part of a global design development strategy for the company’s expanding model range.
Canadian-born Uhlarik has been appointed by Tony Williams-Kenny, who takes over as Global Design Director at SAIC’s Shanghai design base. Uhlarik graduated from the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, Canada, and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 1994, before working as Senior Interior Designer for Skoda Auto in Prague and Project Design Leader for Nissan Design Europe in London. Uhlarik’s design credits include the interiors of all first-generation Skoda products to the 2003 Nissan Evalia concept, as well as the 2007 Nissan NV200 concept and 2010 upgrade of the Nissan Qashqai.
Uhlarik will oversee a growing team of designers based in the UK, focusing primarily on MG vehicles, which now sell in 35 markets worldwide, as well as providing input to SAIC Group’s China-only brand, Roewe. In addition to the Longbridge-based studio, SAIC oversees the company’s design output from its Shanghai centre. The UK-based facility is responsible for the design of the MG3, MG6 and MG5, spearheading the company’s European design strategy and providing input on all global projects. The Icon SUV concept, unveiled earlier this year at the Beijing International Automobile Exhibition, was worked on jointly between the two studios.
David Lindley, Managing Director of SAIC Motor UK, said: “Expanding our design studio will enable us to work on greater numbers of projects at the same time and improve our design capabilities across SAIC Group models destined for European and Chinese markets.
“With many years of automotive design experience behind him, and a wealth of fresh design ideas, Martin Uhlarik is the right man to lead the expansion of our studio and renewed focus on great design with international appeal.”
Martin Uhlarik commented: “MG is enjoying a rebirth in the UK and globally, and it’s not every day that a designer gets a chance to be a part of that. SAIC and MG have ambitious plans with the European Design Centre, and future model launches mean the design team has an exciting time ahead of it. The expanded studio will give us the space and equipment we need to fine-tune a modern, sporty and progressive design language for MG models and attract a truly world-class design team.”