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Chinese automaker Geely hires former Bentley design chief

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FILE PHOTO: A building of the Geely Auto Research Institute is seen in Ningbo
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese automaker Geely has hired Stefan Sielaff, the former design chief of British luxury brand Bentley, as China's manufacturers increasingly turn to new styles to boost sales in the world's biggest car market.

Sielaff, who also worked for Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG, will be based in Sweden's Gothenburg and lead design the domestic Geely, Zeekr, Lynk & Co and Geometry brands, the company said in a statement.

He will not manage design for its Volvo and Polestar brands.

Chinese car companies historically rolled out models that looked similar to foreign brands. But as sales increased, many - including Geely, Great Wall and BYD - built up their own studios, usually led by international designers, to create fresh designs.

Hangzhou-based Geely, which owns Volvo Cars and a 9.7% stake in Daimler, has turned to more sporty designs to boost car prices. Sales at rival Changan jumped this year thanks to its more futuristic designs, while Great Wall's off-road sports utility vehicles are also popular.

The increased focus comes as auto design is becoming more challanging, with the move to electric cars and smarter driving systems that include more exterior sensors.

Chinese ride hailing giant Didi Global Inc recently hired Matthew Swann, previously with Tata Motors and Great Wall, to lead exterior design of its vehicles. Baidu Jidu hired ex-Cadillac designer Frank Wu.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; editing by Richard Pullin)