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Exclusive: Derek Jenkins to become Design Director at Mazda

Fri, 27 Mar 2009

Derek Jenkins, former chief designer at the Volkswagen Group design studio in Santa Monica, will become the new Director of Design at Mazda's R&D Design Center in Irvine, CA.

Jenkins, who resigned from Volkswagen on March 17th, will be filling the position previously held by Franz von Holzhausen, who left Mazda in August last year to become Design Director at Tesla Motors.

"I'm excited to take on something new," Jenkins told CDN. He added that his years spent working at the German automaker's southern California design studio was "a great time for the company and for personal growth", but that "it was time for a new challenge".

Jenkins has held several key positions within the VW Group design organization since 1993 and has worked on creating an array of concept and production cars for the brand, including the Audi A2, the Microbus design study and the half-car, half-motorcycle GX3 concept revealed at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show.

A graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, Jenkins joined the Volkswagen Group design department as an interior and exterior designer almost immediately after his studies. "Back then the Audi studio was in Simi Valley, and I worked under J Mays," revealed Jenkins. "The Concept One was my first project out of school."

After having worked in California for one year, Jenkins became senior designer and moved to the German automaker's headquarters in Ingolstadt. He lived there for four years, working on projects like the Audi A2. "That was one of the most challenging projects because of the aerodynamics and the technical package," Jenkins said. "It was ahead of its time."

In 2000, Jenkins was appointed Chief Designer at the design studio in Santa Monica and went to work on creating the future vision of the iconic VW Microbus, a car that has come to define the hippy movement of the ‘60s. "The Microbus concept was a big thrill," Jenkins said.

He also worked on a series of R-GT concepts shown at the 2005 SEMA show, and the special-edition Passat CC Gold Coast unveiled at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Jenkins will start his new position on Monday April 6th, where he will be responsible for a team of 25-30 designers. He will report to Laurens van den Acker, Global Head of Mazda Design.

By Eric Gallina