Peter Horbury was best known for his work at Volvo, reinventing its design language and saving the company
The world of international car design has been shocked and greatly saddened by the sudden death of Peter Horbury, one of its leaders and highest-achieving members.
Horbury, 72, died while on a business trip to China, visiting the headquarters of his employer, the Geely group. In recent years Horbury was executive vice-president of design at Group Lotus, tasked with providing an easy link between Lotus and its Chinese owners. Until 2021 he was head of design for the entire, fast-expanding Geely group.
Horbury had a widely varied design career, starting at Chrysler UK in the 1970s (where an early job was to design the Talbot Horizon grille) after graduating in design from the Royal College of Art in 1974. But he is perhaps best known for a remarkable stint as Volvo’s design chief that began in 1991 and ran for 11 years. His inspiration provided a new look and a philosophy that literally saved the company. Horbury’s influences are still visible in Volvos today.
Horbury later led design at Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, moved to head Ford design in the US, and then spent another highly productive term at Volvo before taking the Geely job. He was widely recognised as a wonderful leader and mentor, as well as being a brilliant raconteur and a constant source of fun. A great friend of Autocar, Horbury will be very much missed by all who crossed his path in 50 years of brilliance.