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Maeda named new Mazda design boss, replacing van den Acker

Wed, 01 Apr 2009

Ikuo Maeda is the new head of design at Mazda Motor Corp.

The man who is credited with styling the Mazda's flagship sports car takes over for Dutchman Laurens van den Acker, 43, who has decided to leave the company "to pursue other interests," the automaker said in a statement today.

Van den Acker, who joined Mazda in 2006, will remain at the automaker until April 10 to ensure a smooth transition for Maeda, Mazda said.

Since 2000, Maeda, 50, has been the chief designer at Mazda's headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan. During his time there he has designed the RX-8 premium coupe and the Mazda 2 subcompact car.

Maeda joined Mazda in 1982. He was in charge of the company's Yokohama Design Studio from 1985 to 1986. From 1999 to 2000 he worked at Ford's design studio in Detroit.

"Maeda-san has played a pivotal role in the success that Mazda Design has experienced globally. His local and global experience make him well-qualified to take Mazda design to the next stage," Seita Kanai, Mazda's senior executive officer of research and design, said in a statement.

Willing to sacrifice

Van den Acker joined Ford Motor Co. in 1998, eventually becoming chief designer on the Ford Escape before replacing Moray Callum as global head of design for Mazda in May 2006.

Ford had a controlling stake in Mazda from 1996 until November 2008. During that time, designers frequently shifted between the automakers.

Van den Acker worked at Volvo and Audi before joining Ford.

Since joining Mazda, he has produced three concepts: the Nagare (Los Angeles 2006), Ryuga (Detroit 2007) and Hakaze (Geneva 2007).

In the statement, Mazda's Kanai said: "We appreciate the contribution made by Laurens van den Acker. He and his team have taken Mazda Design to new heights and we wish him well in the future."

Speaking at last month's Geneva auto show, van den Acker told Automotive News about the steps Mazda was taking to save money.

"We're copying in black and white. We're turning off the fluorescent lights, and I'm flying coach. We're saving money where it doesn't touch the cars," he said. "As long as we protect the new products, I'm willing to sacrifice everything else."

By John Revill- Automotive News Europe