Phil Simmons, ex-Land Rover designer, is now at the helm of Haval's design team. And he's relishing the challenge, it appears.
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For a long time, China has been an easy target for automotive enthusiasts. Silly names, copycat designs and laughable crash test results showed how far the Middle Kingdom's automotive industry languished behind its Asian neighbours, not to mention Europe.

According to Haval's design director, the time for jokes is over. Phil Simmons has designed cars for Land Rover, Ford and Lincoln. He made the leap to Haval 10 months ago, and has a clear message for those still doubting the Chinese car industry.

"In terms of the talent in China, that really is accelerating at quite a rate," he said.

"I think we'll probably look back in maybe 10 years time and wonder why we ever had any doubt why China was going to be right at the top of the industry," he continued, speaking to Australian, New Zealand and South African media.

"We have an international team, but certainly the Chinese element of that team is a major asset for us."

Above: Current H6. Below: The car's replacement in China.

The development of Haval's styling has been rapid. The H6 we get in Australia has already been superseded in China, while the new F7 and F7X represent yet another step forward. They're "pretty much the flagship" of the Haval range, Simmons said, and have DNA that needs to be "evolved" going forward.

The Vision 2025 concept pictured below is a "statement of intent" for where the next generation could go, as Haval looks to strengthen its relationship with younger buyers. The headlights are slimmer than we've seen from the brand, the profile angrier, and the on-board tech more advanced.

Simmons wants to have his cars "compete on equal terms" with those from Europe, Japan, South Korea and the USA going forward, and cars like the F7 and Vision 2025 are a starting point.

As for what life is like at Haval? Simmons appears to be revelling in the freedom that comes with working for a fresh company instead of one with decades upon decades of history.

"I think good design translates internationally. Design is three-dimensional philosophy," he said.

"The design approach at Land Rover is very rigorous, there's a very careful methodology to the process... but it is refreshing to be around a whole different kind of, a more expressive DNA," Simmons continued.