Peter Pfeiffer has taken over as Mercedes-Benz design director at a time when the brand is beginning a new era inside the DaimlerChrysler group.
He is following a legend. Pfeiffer replaces Bruno Sacco, the dean of European design chiefs, who has retired after more than 40 years with the company.
Pfeiffer has been Sacco's chief lieutenant in recent years. He joined Mercedes in 1968.
Automotive News Europe's Georg Auer interviewed Pfeiffer at last month's Geneva auto show. Here are edited excerpts:
Will it be difficult to cut yourself loose from the heritage of a man like Bruno Sacco?
I have worked together with Mr. Sacco for so many years that there will be a very smooth transition. Of course, in the next five to 10 years styling and design will move into various new directions. There are 320 of us working in design and styling, so a lot of new things will develop very fast.
Can you develop synergies in design and styling between Chrysler and Mercedes?
Design has to remain independent and self-contained. But of course even before the merger we often met at conferences and motor shows and talked. There always has been a good climate between (Chrysler design chief) Tom Gale and his people and us. Now we discuss the themes we work on, especially how we can stress separate brand identities for Mercedes and Chrysler. We also can decide who will do what. The actual design work is absolutely independent.
Will Mercedes and Chrysler share platforms?
Certainly not. Platform strategies do not influence our design work at all. What we consider is which basic architectures we can both use. But the model must present the characteristic features of a Mercedes. That is what people want to buy. It has to be a typical German car and a typical Mercedes-Benz design.
Doesn't 'world design' loom in a global group like DaimlerChrysler?
I doubt there really exists anything like a world design. For me there is no such thing. A brand like Mercedes must have European and German design and it has to show Mercedes design.
By keeping such distance between brands, don't you risk losing synergies by not using certain common parts?
You have to look at what you are doing in each instance: A battery - if it is of good quality - is a battery. There are many parts that are common in all cars. Not everything that is common is also negative.
The challenge is to be different through design. This is an old story for Mercedes-Benz: Maintain the special culture of Mercedes and get that special design philosophy right across the whole lineup of models.
How is your design philosophy different from that of Sacco?
I have worked in a team with Bruno Sacco for an eternity. If there were differences of opinion we fought it out until we saw clearly. So I can say for myself the imprint that Sacco left on Mercedes cars will continue.