Mazda has promoted Kevin Rice – currently its creative director for Europe – as chief of its European design operations, effective Sept. 1, 2014. He is succeeding Peter Birtwhistle who is retiring following a 26-year career at Mazda. Mazda Europe chief executive Jeff Guyton said in a statement that with Rice continuing Birtwhiste’s work, Mazda will have the necessary continuity while presenting a new generation of designers.
Rice is succeeding a design team at a time when Mazda is on a rise, thanks to rollouts of new products like the CX5 SUV, Mazda3 compact and midsize Mazda6 -- all using the brand’s new Kodo design language.
Mazda is set to unveil its latest MX-5/Miata roadster on Sept. 3 during simultaneous events in Japan, Spain and the United States. Mazda posted a 23-percent jump in sales in the first half of 2014 to 92,430 units in Europe, according to industry association ACEA.
Rice was senior designer at Mazda Europe from 1995 to 2000, and was considered a contributor to the design of the RX-8 and the Neospace concept car.