Since 1999 he has been in charge of design for Daimler’s top brand Mercedes-Benz. Under his leadership Mercedes has added cars in the entry-premium (B class), premium-SUV (GL and R classes) medium-premium (CLS class) and supercar (SLR McLaren) segments.
Pfeiffer, who will retire from the automaker later this year, says that he is proud that he has been able to “continue the fantastic design tradition at Mercedes.”
He looks forward to spending more time with his family as well as more time on the golf course in the years to come. He also will continue to play an active role in the auto industry as president of the German Design Council.Name: Peter Pfeiffer.
Title: Mercedes-Benz Cars senior vice president of design.
Family: Wife Karola, son Dominik, 32.
Languages: English, German.
Countries lived in: Germany.
What was your first car?
A Ford 12 M.
What cars are in your garage now?
A Mercedes-Benz CL class and an SLK class, which is my wife’s car.
How do you relax?
I like to play golf. Walking around in nature and concentrating on the game is a great way to unwind. I also enjoy skiing. Apart from sports, a good glass of wine can work wonders, as can a meal with friends.
What talent would you really like to have?
Whenever I play golf I would like to have Tiger Woods’ skills. But overall I am comfortable coping with my own “personal deficiencies.”
What are your strongest personality traits?
I am unbiased and passionate. Apart from that, I would describe myself and my attitude toward work as intense and tenacious. At the same time, I consider myself an open and generous person.
What trait do you dislike in yourself?
My underlying impatience.
How would you describe your management style?
My management style can probably best be compared with the work of a conductor. We both lead groups made up of soloists. The head of design must allow individuality but also combine various ideas to create one forceful, completely rounded work of art. And just like a conductor I always feel I have to motivate my design team toward achieving top results.
What has been the most memorable moment of your 40 years as a designer with Mercedes?
Being named head of Mercedes-Benz design in April 1999.
What is your view of present-day car design?
Design nowadays cannot really be divided into good or bad car design. The key to success is to have good design across all types of cars within one brand. It is vital to develop a distinctive design character so that a car can be immediately recognized as a family member of one specific brand, such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz or BMW. Essentially, good design is not only about creating beautiful and fascinating individual products. It is also about defining the automobile’s nature.
What have been the big changes in your career?
There are two major changes that spring to mind: We have changed our design language rather dramatically. Compared with the rather cool, prestigious and status-oriented appeal in the 1980s, we have become rather emotional. We are aiming at our customers’ hearts while adhering to our principles. This means that we do not want to follow fashion. We want to be modern. The other major milestone has been the introduction of totally new car concepts such as the SLK class, M class, A class and CLS class. When I started with Mercedes-Benz we had little more than what nowadays corresponds to the E class and the S class. Definitely memorable, too, is the fact that with the Mercedes-Benz 190 (W 101), for which I did the external design, we launched a new era for the brand in terms of both size reduction and novel car architecture.
What is the future of mobility?
I am optimistic. The car industry has always managed to meet new challenges and it will continue to do so. There will be many more technical advances in the years to come. These will take place mainly in the interior. Just consider how far we have come from the first radio.
What was the most fun you had in the past year?
My profession as a designer has been a constant source of contentment and joy. I have always felt more than happy when I am actually confronted with my “children” on the road, having designed them three or four years ago. In a way, I know them all, but it is always a great feeling to witness their “rollout.” And, actually, they even look different in everyday traffic from how we perceived them in the studios.
What kind of holidays do you like?
I like to be active or entertained. That is why I take an annual trip to Lake Constance to go sailing and I really enjoy attending the Formula One race at the Hockenheim Ring.
What is your greatest personal achievement?
To have found Karola, marry her and have our son Dominik.
What is your most treasured possession?
Although I would not say that I wish to possess her, it is my wife, who is my treasure and my love.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Any music except rap.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I would not know of any specific extravagance, unless one wishes to define a definite passion for cars and aesthetics as extravagant.
What to you is perfect design?
A car that is nothing but beautiful is in danger of losing its impact, of being lost in oblivion. You have to combine beauty with character.
Is there anything really “big” you’d like to do such as climb Everest or sail the Atlantic?
I would love to play a round of golf with Tiger Woods. But, most of all, I would cherish being instrumental in the upbringing of my twin grandchildren.
What will you do after you retire?
There will not be any lack of work. For instance, I have been elected to a two-year term as president of the German Design Council.
What will your future be like?
I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and to playing golf on a more regular basis.
What is your legacy ?
Having been able to continue the fantastic design tradition at Mercedes-Benz.