Ken Ma appointed VP Design at Chang'anFri, 11 Mar 2011
Former Shanghai Automotive Technical Center (SATC) design director Ken Ma joined Changan Automobile Group as vice president of the firm's Engineering Research Center late last year. Ma's new role puts him in charge of the Group's global design department, reporting directly to Changan group chairman LiuPin Xu on all design matters. But the move also effectively places him in the highest design position at any mainstream automotive company in China – a breakthrough for the country's automotive design industry.
Ma realizes that having attained this level in his career is not to be taken lightly. This month, he is looking establish a stronger local design team based on Chang'an's original design system, which will eventually form a separate design entity that will stand separately from – but on the same level as – the company's engineering department.
"Our design center should be independent from the engineering department, they should be two parallel units," Ma said. "In this framework, the two sides will be in a relatively equal position to solve the problem and can fight for more reasonable working hours, so the designer could pursue a balanced proportions and the fine details to enhance the level of the overall design."
Ma also has another objective: to open a design center in Beijing. Currently, the Chang'an Automobile Group owns design studios in China (Chongqing, Shanghai and Haerbin) and in Italy and Japan. The company's design team in Turin, Italy, was responsible for the development of core products of creative design. Ma's arrival will upgrade the entire design team and enhance their design capability – establishing the Beijing design center is a key milestone.
The new design center, which will hatch from the Chang'an Beijing Automobile Engineering Research Institute established in 2009, will become the future core strength in passenger vehicle design, while the Chongqing design studio will mainly be responsible for commercial vehicle design and some facelift work. Chang'an Automobile has already started recruiting talented designers worldwide, with the design team in Beijing expected to be finalized this year.
"To come up with a good product is to seek a balance among three factors: schedule, cost and quality," Ma continued. "For a young Chinese design team to accomplish a task in a short time, with low cost, and without sacrificing the quality is very difficult."
Ken Ma's experience will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable asset in accomplishing his objectives. A graduate of the Central Academy of Arts & Design (now Academy of Arts & Design Tsinghua University) with an Industrial Design degree in 1990, Ma went abroad to continue his studies at Ohio State University, where he obtained a degree in design management. He then started his design career at General Motors' R&D Center as a creative designer, eventually being promoted to the design director role at Shanghai GM's Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center. During that time, he designed the famous SGM Buick Junwei (Regal) and Buick GL8, both of which became best sellers in China. Ma later spent time in North America, where he worked with Mitsubishi and Honda, but he returned to China to become design director at Shanghai Automotive Technical Center, where he led SAIC's vehicle design team.
Over the course of his career at SAIC, Ma presided over the development of the Roewe N1, E1, and MG Zero concepts as well as the Roewe 350 and MG5 production vehicles, and led the design team of the Roewe W5, 750, 550 and other facelift models. He also designed the Leaf (Yez) and Happi (Seashells) concept cars for the Shanghai World Expo, and created China's first automotive design team brand, Shanghai Automotive Design (SAIC Design). He has trained over 160 talented designers during his professional career in the Pan Asia Technical Center and SAIC Design.
Led by Ma, Chang'an's rejuvenated design team will seek to improve the design quality of their products, enhance the brand's image and make a contribution to promoting their company's long-term development. The goal is to enhance the company's status and present itself as an exemplar of China's design studios.
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