Appointed chief designer at Porsche last August, German Michael Mauer brings experience from stints at Saab Design, General Motors' European advanced design studio, and Mercedes-Benz. Mauer spoke with reporter J.P. Vettraino of AutoWeek, Automotive News Europe's sister publication, at the recent introduction of Porsche's newest model, the Cayman.
What's the first thing you learned about Porsche?
I am absolutely amazed how dedicated the people in the company are, how they are so aware of and involved in its identity. This is the last independent car company, and you have to think twice - or a third time - about every decision you make. There is no place to hide a mistake.
What do you bring to the process?
Our design staff is small compared with most companies, but it is also very involved, and to some extent this job makes you a caretaker or facilitator.
With Porsche, it's important that the customer is attracted by the form.
In some ways the form follows emotion, but it is critical with the emotion that you also maintain the function. It's important to understand your history, but for me there is only one direction - forward. I hate all these retro cars.
What attributes identify the new Cayman as a Porsche?
The sophisticated detail, certainly, and the surface treatment. It's just beautiful, and it stretches the technology of bending steel. But more than anything, it is the proportions. The Cayman's proportions demonstrate the emotion that is so important to a Porsche.
What's the biggest misconception people have about the automobile designer's job?
Sometimes I think my friends and others should understand better that this is a serious, demanding job, and that I don't make abstract art or sculpture or something.
I don't know that people understand how demanding a process it is - the back and forth and the arguments and the redoing. It's very intense, and that's one reason I'm reluctant to criticize another company's work in public.