Walter Maria de Silva (born 27 February 1951 in Lecco, Italy) is an Italian car designer who was Head of Volkswagen Group Design until November 2015, being responsible for oversight on the design of all Volkswagen Group passenger car brands including Audi, Volkswagen, SEAT, Škoda as well as Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti. Since beginning his car design career in 1972 as head of design for Fiat, de Silva has also worked as a designer at I.DE.A Institute, and as head of design for Alfa Romeo, SEAT and the now defunct 'Audi brand group'.
Walter de Silva began his career in 1972 at age 21, working for Centro Stile Fiat.
In 1986 Walter de Silva was recruited away from the I.DE.A. Institute to become head of Alfa Romeo's Centro Stile. Walter de Silva remained in this role until 1999.
At Alfa Romeo, de Silva led the renewal of the brand's design language and repositioning.
In 1999 Ferdinand Piëch assigned Walter de Silva to work for the Volkswagen Group's SEAT division, with the aim of injecting verve and sportiness to SEAT's design. The result was SEAT's 'auto emoción' philosophy which was first demonstrated in the 2000 SEAT Salsa and the 2001 SEAT Tango concept cars, as a foretaste of SEAT's new design language, with the latter receiving in 2002 the 'Autonis Award' in the Concept Car category. His more expressive design approach has since influenced the form and look of numerous cars, such as the 2002 SEAT Córdoba and SEAT Ibiza, as well as the 2004 SEAT Altea and 2005 SEAT León which were highly acclaimed and subsequently received several design awards (e.g. Red dot design award, Autonis award, 'The World's Most Beautiful Automobile 2004' award in Milan etc.).
In March 2002 Walter de Silva was appointed Head of Design to the now-defunct Audi brand group which encompassed the Audi, SEAT and Lamborghini brands. Volkswagen Group management charged de Silva with giving the Audi range a more emotional design language which included the controversial introduction of the full-height, single-frame front grille that now adorns all Audi models. His first full design for a production Audi was the 2005 A6. He has since gone on to contribute to the 2005 Audi Q7, 2006 Audi TT and the 2007 Audi A5, which is reportedly his favourite design.
Following the appointment of former Audi chairman Martin Winterkorn as the chairman of the Volkswagen Group in January 2007, de Silva was appointed as Head of Volkswagen Group Design effective from February 1, 2007, and was responsible for the overall strategic design direction of all VW passenger car brands including Škoda, SEAT, Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti. de Silva replaced Murat Günak, and his first task was to re-evaluate the designs of three then-imminent Volkswagen models which had been penned by his predecessor: the 2008 Golf, the 2008 Passat CC and the 2008 Scirocco.
De'Silva retired in November 2015, continuing his links with the Volkswagen Group as advisor.