Peter Pfeiffer, chief designer for Mercedes-Benz, considers design to be the most important driver of the decision to purchase a vehicle. Pfeiffer spoke about new models and trends with Harald Hamprecht, an Automobilwoche staff reporter.
What new trends are you seeing in car design?
You could see at the Geneva auto show that folding hardtops and four-door coupes are defining new segments. New paint colors, such as the "used look" that EDAG showed at Geneva on its Biwak concept, are interesting. The standard of new designs has never been so high.
All the automakers are producing good designs. Why?
Everyone has understood that design is the most important driver for a customer's purchase decision. Design also is the carrier of the brand image. That is why there is less and less copying.
Why is the face-lifted E class, which goes on sale June 10, so similar to the outgoing car?
It is a fine skill to upgrade a car without the owner of the outgoing model having the feeling he is driving an old car. There is always a conflict between balancing tradition and innovation.
Is Mercedes design too conservative?
Our models have always been a mobile expression of status and an attitude to life. Over the last 10 years, we have also placed more importance on emotionality, vitality and innovation.
The R-class minivan/SUV crossover appears not to be selling well. Why?
I am convinced that the R class will find its way. The model needs time because it occupies a new segment.
DaimlerChrysler and Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche wants Mercedes to share more with the Chrysler group. Will there be cooperation between Mercedes and Chrysler on design?
Brand separation is more important in design, so the synergies are limited to purchasing and production processes.
Did your department have to accept cutbacks under the CORE (Costs down, Revenues up, Execution) cost-cutting program?
We didn't have to wait for CORE to continually improve ourselves. Today we need just 35 to 45 months from the first idea for a new model to complete development.
The generation of the design concept comes after six to seven months.