Jaguar designer Alister Whelan joins Chinese firm Nio – Autocar

Chinese EV maker Nio has made two high-profile additions to its international design team, recruiting Alister Whelan from Jaguar Land Rover and Joaquin Garcia from Seat.

Whelan’s departure from JLR is the latest in a series of important moves within the British firm’s design department under CEO Thierry Bolloré. 

Around this time last year, Massimo Frascella became Land Rover design director as Gerry McGovern was promoted to chief creative officer for the wider JLR portfolio. More recently, Jaguar design director Julian Thomson left after more than 21 years of service, leaving Whelan as one of two remaining senior designers at the firm. 

It remains unclear who will replace Whelan in his role at JLR, where he was most recently in charge of interior design. His career at JLR spanned 21 years, during which time he was responsible for the design of such pivotal models as the F-Type and F-Pace, as well as the interior of the I-Pace EV

Whelan will become a studio director for Nio alongside Garcia, who joins after five years leading exterior design for all production and show cars for Seat and Cupra. Other studio directors at Nio include Colin Phipps, previously of General Motors, and Andreas Nilsson, who joined from rival firm Geely. 

The pair will report to vice-president of design, Kris Tomasson, who said: “For Nio to attract the calibre, creativity and reputation that both Alister and Joaquin enjoy gives me immense satisfaction at just how far we have come in a very short space of time.

“Both bring unsurpassed levels of senior experience and together with our established studio directors will provide the leadership to deliver on our promise for an exceptional user experience.”

The growth of Nio’s senior design team is part of a rapid expansion that has seen the company go from Chinese market launch to selling cars in Germany in just three years. A UK launch remains likely, but the company has yet to give a date. Meanwhile, the ES8 SUV is on sale in Europe already, with the ET7 saloon due next year.

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