Creative Direction CHARLES BLUNIER & CO.


B.I. Collection (BIC): Do you actually feel any pressure?
Klaus Busse (KB): Of course, becoming the chief ­designer of a brand like Maserati is exciting. But you also have to deliver, which means that about seven years ago, I became intensively involved with Italian automotive design and aesthetics and culture in ­general.

BIC: Was that difficult for you as a German who, among other things, spent ten years at Daimler?
KB: There are a few fundamental differences. For me, the most obvious difference is that German automotive design is primarily an evolutionary design, meaning that the form is developed further in a way that is comprehensible to the customer. Italian automotive design works differently. It creates the best possible design from the circumstances that exist today. On the one hand, this offers fantastic opportunities. Still, on the other, there is always a danger of losing the customer because he can no longer follow the story.

BIC: In that sense, you ideally bring together the best of two design worlds?
KB: Ideally, yes.

BIC: Does that always work?
KB: I think we’ve managed it in a great way with the MC20 in particular and for the MC20 Cielo. I say that, of course, as chief designer with a certain subjectivity, but also with all my professional expertise. This car is an emotional sculpture that translates into the present something that once defined our brand
essence with racing cars such as the legendary ­Maserati A6GCS.

BIC: The MC20 was a completely new project. You were allowed to start with a blank sheet. As chief designer, are you setting the direction and saying that’s where we want to go?
KB: No. The first thing we did was have almost philosophical discussions about our brand, where we come from, how we have developed, and where we want to go. So I didn’t give a direction here, but first looked at who was translating our thoughts and in what form. From that point, we more and more derived a concrete direction.

BIC: How much “beauty” can a Maserati take? Especially the legendary models of the 1980s live very much from their rough charm...
KB: Indeed, many things were a little more “brutal” in the 1980s. If you go back even further in the timeline, you find a kind of “Italian dandy” in the 1970s – the games console – and then in the 1950s, with the 3500GT, also a little more elegance. It’s a “generational design”, so to speak. Maybe you can compare it with the rock band Queen, which doesn’t just have one style, but has found a different expression in its music depending on the generation.
Beauty is very important for us at Maserati, but beauty and design are not the most important thing. The most important thing is innovation, that is, what the car can do. What our engineering team creates in Modena. We have also created an engineering masterpiece with electric vehicles. My job and that of my team is then to give this masterpiece a beautiful dress.


BIC: How would you describe what the brand stands for to a child who has never heard of Maserati? And how would they recognise a Maserati on the street?
KB: It might be difficult to explain to a child, but for me it’s important that Maserati embodies the idea of the GranTurismo, which is the dream of travelling far with comfort and performance. We combine these two elements into the GranTurismo theme like no ­other brand. Our brand-defining vehicle, the Maserati GranTurismo, now in its 2nd generation, takes its name from this very idea.

When it comes to how you recognise a Maserati, I would describe it as a rolling sculpture. I am therefore also very positive about the electric drive, because it is also quiet. So in the future you will see a Maserati driving into town as a beautiful, quiet rolling sculpture that doesn’t announce itself five minutes beforehand by making a noise. Maseratis are also deliberately designed without unnecessary wings, air intakes or air outlets.

BIC: You say you’ve done a lot of research into Italian aesthetics and culture. Can you tell us how much Verdi, Michelangelo or Botticelli are in the Cielo and how we recognise them?
KB: Quite clearly, Leonardo da Vinci. Because for da Vinci, art was a by-product of innovation. My team and I like to talk about “when science creates art”. There are a couple of nice examples in the design of the MC20 where, for technical reasons, we had to make cooling slits on the engine cover, even though we didn’t actually want to make them. These cooling vents in the shape of a trident have now become the most photographed element of the car. From my point of view, this is a beautiful example where something was created out of technical necessity that became an iconic element.

BIC: But in the end, you stand on stage and present the new product to the world. In a world of ego brands, does the identification of an automotive brand today only function via types?
KB: That’s an interesting question. I have a hard time with that. We know this phenomenon from the fashion industry, where the creative boss has a whole studio of hard-working designers behind him who develop his collections and takes the credit at the end. What I can say is that in Maserati we strongly believe in cooperation and in the sharing of ideas. I work with a great team, composed by professional and skilled people and each goal we reach is a team effort.

BIC: But this is not just a phenomenon of the fashion ­industry.
KB: That’s true. Basically, the same thing happened with the great car designers of their time. They were all charismatic types who stood for a certain design, but they didn’t design everything themselves. Automotive design is a team sport. There’s no other way to do it. And it’s the case that designers in particular often have biographies that scream ‘rock star’ far more than my own.

BIC: Can you give a few examples here?
KB: I’d rather not. Colleagues might still want to make a career out of it (laughs).

BIC: Too bad.
KB: Wait. I can tell you one anecdote. It’s about one of my former designers. He is now retired and therefore has nothing to lose.

BIC: Now we are curious.
KB: He was actually in a rock band, but that was a very long time ago. So long that Deep Purple was playing with him as an opening band. Of course, they hung out in the bars and clubs back then, and in one of them it was customary to bring your own beer, because the drinks ran out at some point, and if you wanted to have another drink, you had to bring your own beer. That’s what my former designer did, of course, and so, according to the story, he was leaning against the bar, gleefully drinking the beer he’d brought himself, when a guy came up to him and wanted his beer. He responded in character with “Fuck off!”

BIC: And then it came to a fight?
KB: No. The guy just walked away.

BIC: So where’ s the punch line there?
KB: The guy's name was Ozzy Osbourne. One of my former designers sent away an Ozzy Osbourne scrounging for beer (laughs out loud)! So how am I supposed to get up on stage today and be a design rock star?