Driving the Future: A Candid Chat with Mazda’s Jo Stenuit

Automotivedesignplanet recently had the privilege of sitting down with Mazda Europe’s Design Director, Jo Stenuit. They delved deep into the world of automotive design, Jo’s journey with Mazda, and the future of driving.

Jo Stenuit stands as a beacon of innovation and design excellence in the automotive industry. As the Design Director of Mazda Europe, he not only shapes the aesthetics of the cars we see on the roads but also encapsulates the spirit and philosophy of Mazda in each model.

With a background that intertwines art and product design, Jo’s journey has been a rich tapestry of experiences, from his early days of drawing cars as a young boy to mastering the intricacies of design at prestigious institutions.


Having spent over two decades with Mazda, Jo’s vision and leadership have been instrumental in steering Mazda’s design evolution, especially the brand’s distinctive “Kodo – Soul of Motion” philosophy. His commitment to blending art with engineering and his dedication to the brand’s legacy makes him an indispensable asset to Mazda and an inspiration to designers worldwide.

Journey to Mazda

Jo’s passion for cars isn’t a recent infatuation. “Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve been drawing cars,” he shared, reflecting on the book from his Belgian friends at Waft. Instead of pursuing pure art, Jo opted for a product design program in Antwerp. This decision, combined with a master’s from RCA, paved his way to Mazda.

“Phillips Research Lab gave me my first break,” Jo reminisced. “But it was Mazda where I truly found my calling. Twenty-five years and counting, and I still love every minute.”

Kodo – Soul of Motion

Mazda’s “Kodo – Soul of Motion” design philosophy piqued my interest. I wanted to know how Jo and his team managed to maintain consistency across models while also ensuring each car had its unique character.

“It’s more of a guiding principle than a rule book,” Jo explained. “We ensure each car has its distinct personality. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, our initial designs drew inspiration from a cheetah. But today, we aim for minimalism, best represented by models like the RX Vision.”

Striking the Right Balance

When it was inquired about Mazda’s approach to combining aesthetics with functionality, Jo lit up. “Craftsmanship lies at the heart of our designs. We focus not only on how our cars look but also on how they feel to the driver. It’s a blend of the emotional value of art and the functionality of design.”

The Future of Driving

The conversation then shifted to electric vehicles and the future of driving. “It surprises me that EVs aren’t more popular in Japan,” Jo remarked. “Yet, Mazda is taking a multi-dimensional approach. We believe in a gradual process of electrification.”

Regarding hydrogen as an alternative, Jo confirmed Mazda’s interest. “We launched the RX-8 hydrogen vehicle about 20 years ago. But like all technologies, hydrogen has its challenges. We’re exploring all avenues, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of the automotive industry.”

Closing Thoughts

In reflecting on Jo Stenuit’s illustrious career and his pivotal role at Mazda Europe, one can’t help but admire his unwavering dedication to the art and science of automotive design. As the torchbearer of Mazda’s “Kodo – Soul of Motion” philosophy, Jo seamlessly merges innovation with tradition, ensuring Mazda vehicles are not just modes of transport but works of art.

His unique blend of passion, expertise, and vision has not only elevated Mazda’s global design ethos but has also inspired a new generation of designers to push boundaries. As we look to the future of automotive design, it’s clear that visionaries like Jo Stenuit will continue to drive the industry forward, crafting vehicles that captivate and inspire.

The chat with Jo Stenuit was insightful. His passion for design and commitment to innovation shines through every word. Mazda’s future looks promising, with leaders like Jo steering the way. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this dynamic brand.

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