Pierre Leclercq has been appointed vice president and head of design at Great Wall Motors. Splitting his time between the company's studio in Baoding, China, and a Shanghai-based satellite studio, he reports directly to chairman Wei Jianjun.
In his role he‘s responsible for the design of the brand globally and leads a team of 130 designers in Baoding as well as 25 in the Shanghai studio.
Belgium-born Leclercq moves from his position as design chief BMW M at its studio in Munich, Germany, which he held for nearly three years.
Speaking to Car Design News about the move, Leclercq says this is a very interesting time for the Chinese car industry, and the ones who build their own identity and history will survive the test of time.
He explains, "We are talking about starting with a white sheet of paper, building up a team, making the existing team stronger and shaping the future of a brand that has so much potential. I decided to go for it and do my best to achieve something big."
He began his BMW career after three months at Zagato and a year at Ford before Adrian Van Hooydonk recruited him to the company's Designworks studio in California in 2000.
Five years later he moved to Munich to take up his role as senior exterior designer, and is credited with the exterior design of the BMW X5 – a project he says is "very important" to him – and its big brother, the X6. He spent six years there before being promoted to design chief BMW M, where he was charged with leading the design of all future M cars, M Performance Automobiles and M Sport Packages. The first M Sport Package he worked on was that on the F34 3 Series GT and was in charge of the M3, M4 and the next generation X5 M and X6 M models.
Leclercq started his design education at the Institut St Luc Liege, Belgium, where he studied Industrial Design from 1990 to 1994, before heading to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, in 1996.
He says, "This company has fantastic potential – in China, there are over 50 companies and of course not all will survive, but we have a very strong future. Mr Wei is a man with a good vision of what he wants, and we're at the point where we can and need to take the right decisions, but I'm feeling very positive."
Great Wall wants to be producing 1.5m cars by 2015 and aims to be number one in the world in terms of SUV sales by 2020, and Leclercq stresses the importance of markets such as South America in achieving their long-term targets.
He and his team are currently working on a show car that will be unveiled at the Beijing auto show next year.
Speaking about his plans for the future, he says, "I truly hope to look back in a couple of years having achieved something substantial in the product portfolio and in the team building. A strong design for the brand and inspiring to other companies."