Michael Mauer, Leiter Style Porsche bei der Weltpremiere des vollelektrischen Macan in Singapur. Foto: Porsche AG

Premiere talk: Michael Mauer, Head of Style Porsche, on the electric Macan

Porsche presented the new all-electric Macan in Singapore on January 25. Shortly before the world premiere, Michael Mauer, Head of Style Porsche, talks about the challenge of further developing the familiar design of the successful SUV. The switch from the combustion engine to a purely electric drive in the Macan was both a challenge and an opportunity for the Style Porsche team.

Mr. Mauer, with the new Macan, Porsche is starting the new year with a very special highlight. As a designer, how do you approach the task of designing the first all-electric Macan?

Michael Mauer: Before we think specifically about the design, the strategic approach plays a decisive role in the design. What characterizes the model? What do previous generations look like? This was a particularly exciting task with the new Macan. We presented the first Macan in 2013 and have been carefully but consistently developing the model ever since. Generally speaking, the Macan therefore already has an internationally established product identity. With each new generation, our task is to find the right balance between familiar design features and new elements. Specifically, each new sports car must be clearly recognizable as part of the Porsche product family and the respective model, but must also be perceived as “the new one”. This aesthetic consistency is extremely important for our brand. The new Macan is also the first model that we are electrifying from an existing, established product identity. So the question is: how “new” must the “new” be – what is too much, what is just right?

How can we find the right balance? What parameters can be used to determine whether the model will be well received by customers?

Mauer: That is generally a difficult question – the design process takes place years before the market launch. There are no strictly rational parameters by which we can assess the attractiveness of a model in the future. At brand level, we have defined a kind of guideline with the Porsche Design Principles, which help us in our daily work on the models to align the design with our strategic goals. For the Porsche brand, we have chosen three key terms – Focus, Tension and Purpose – to describe the character of the brand. In somewhat simplified terms, you could say that these keywords describe what makes a Porsche brand product special – what makes it a “typical Porsche” experience for the customer.

How did they come about? How are they used in practice?

Mauer: To exaggerate somewhat, I would say that the creation or rather definition of the terms was almost more important than the terms themselves. The task of finding exactly three terms is far more complex than it sounds. Here, too, it is not possible without teamwork. The exchange and the associated examination of the brand’s attributes was and is a very valuable task for the entire design team. On the one hand, the terms serve as a kind of compass to ensure that we do not lose sight of the essence of the brand when looking to the future. On the other hand, they help us decide which approaches to pursue in the early concept phase.

Can you give us a specific example of the implementation of a key concept?

Mauer: The “Focus” example explains this well. In terms of the interior, focus means that the driver is always at the center of a Porsche sports car. In concrete terms, all the components that are important to the driver are arranged around him or her within direct reach. With the so-called Curved Display, we are going one step further: thanks to the free-floating display element in a slightly curved shape that is ideal for the driver, we are aligning this central instrument even more consistently with the driver. We have also created a kind of “minimal mode” in the instrument cluster. This allows the driver to select only those elements that are absolutely necessary for driving. Focusing on what is absolutely necessary, so to speak.

To what extent do different international preferences and trends play a role in the design process?

Mauer: In general, I believe that the right balance is crucial for a well-established brand like Porsche. A brand with a distinctive identity also thrives on not following every trend. Sometimes it’s a better strategy not to always be the first with everything. It’s about questioning trends and influences and critically examining whether they suit the brand. This is the only way we can secure our unique identity in the long term. This also applies when looking at the markets. One example: In Asia, digital elements play a very important role in cars – design is generally more playful from a European perspective. What does that mean for Porsche? The consequence is that we are looking very closely at these needs. Nevertheless, I am convinced that Porsche is so popular worldwide precisely because of its clear brand DNA with a long history and what I call a “consistent CV”.

Is there a risk of being perceived as old-fashioned and outdated at some point?

Mauer: Absolutely! Finding exactly the right balance between “typical Porsche” and “innovative” is sometimes a difficult task. We also take this challenge into account structurally. The design of a vehicle never comes entirely from the pen of a single designer. Design is teamwork and thrives on the exchange of different ideas. At Porsche, we have deliberately created the creative freedom to think about future approaches and characteristics of individual design elements, far removed from work on specific models. In this way, we ensure that creative ideas can emerge independently of the series production process. It is not uncommon for these to actually flow into series vehicles later on. Another important aspect is the composition of the team. We deliberately combine very experienced designers with the “young and wild” – this exchange usually results in super exciting approaches. We employ around 200 designers in total.

What influence do the new technical components have on the design process?

Mauer: Basically, the technical requirements of the car are always crucial. This starts at a very early stage with the packaging – i.e. the arrangement of various components in the car. The packaging is decisive for the basic proportions – the typical Porsche flyline would not be feasible with every arrangement. The electric drive offers new degrees of freedom and challenges at the same time: the elimination of the massive engine block allows us to emphasize the typical topography on the front hood. At the same time, the battery, which is still quite massive, requires a lot of space and would potentially disrupt the characteristic width-to-height ratio. Of course, aerodynamics also play a major role in terms of the range of an electric sports car. In principle, however, this is not a completely unknown situation for us: in addition to a new form of drive, we are constantly confronted with requirements that influence our design. Examples include increased crash requirements or restrictions with regard to the approvability of individual elements such as the design of the front and rear lights.

Specifically in relation to the new, all-electric Macan: How important is the visualization of the electric drive in the design?

Mauer: In general, we at Porsche have decided not to distinguish the electric models completely from the combustion-powered sports cars in formal terms. Porsche remains Porsche – an electric Porsche is also the sports car in the segment. With this in mind, it is logical that we do not abandon our established Porsche design DNA. Without giving away too many details: The new, electric Macan is also clearly recognizable as a Porsche and as a Macan at first glance. I would say that we have fundamentally retained the proportions that define the sports car in this segment for Porsche. The design has been further sharpened in both the interior and exterior – the new model looks even sportier and more dynamic. The driving pleasure is definitely reflected in the design.

Note: The new models will be delivered to the first customers during the second half of the year. Prices in Germany, including VAT and country-specific equipment, start at 84,100 euros for the Macan 4 and 114,600 euros for the Macan Turbo.

Read more interviews and articles on electric mobility & autonomous driving in the current issue of eMove360° magazine in german language. Print edition – also available as an annual subscription – can be ordered in the eMove360° store.

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26.03.2024   |  

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