Pure emotion around heritage, craftsmanship and innovation.


Klaus Busse, chief designer of Maserati in an interview with B.I. Collection, February 2023

B.I. Collection (BIC): Do you actually feel pressure?

Klaus Busse (KB): Of course it’s exciting to become the chief designer of a brand like Maserati. But you also have to deliver, and that means that about seven years ago now, I got deeply involved with Italian automotive design and Italian aesthetics and culture in general.

BIC: Was that difficult for you as a German who, among other things, spent ten years at Daimler?

KB: There are a few very fundamental differences. The clearest difference for me is that German automotive design is above all an evolutionary design, which means that the form is developed further in a way that is comprehensible to the customer. Italian automotive design works differently. It creates the best possible design from the circumstances given today. On the one hand, this offers fantastic opportunities, but on the other hand, there is always a risk of losing the customer because they can no longer follow the story.

BIC: Seen in this light, you ideally bring together the best of two design worlds?

KB: Ideally, yes.

BIC: Does that always succeed?

KB: I think we’ve managed it in a great way, especially for the MC20 in a consequence and then also for the MC20 Cielo. I say that with a certain subjectivity, of course, as chief designer, but also with all my professional expertise. This car is an emotional sculpture that translates into the present something that once defined our brand essence with racing cars like the legendary Maserati A6GCS.

BIC: The MC20 was a completely new project. They were allowed to start with a white sheet of paper. As chief designer, do you give direction here and say that’s where we want to go?

KB: No. It was like, first of all, we had almost philosophical conversations, about what makes our brand, where we came from, how we evolved, and where we want to go? So I have not given a direction here, but first looked at who translates our thoughts and in what form. From there we derived more and more a concrete direction.

BIC: How much “beauty” can a Maserati take? Especially the legendary models of the 1980s live very much from their rough charm…

KB: Indeed, in the 1980s, a lot of things were a little more “brutalist.” If you then go back even further in the timeline, you’ll find a kind of “Italian dandy” in the 1970s – the games console – and then a bit more elegance in the 1950s, with the 3500GT. It’s a “generational design,” so to speak. Perhaps you can compare it with the rock band Queen, which also has not only one style, but has found a different expression in the music depending on the generation.

Beauty is very important to us at Maserati, but beauty and design are not the most important things. The most important thing is innovation, that is, what the vehicle can do. That which our engineering team creates in Modena. We have also created an engineering masterpiece with electric vehicles. My job and that of my team is then to give this masterpiece a beautiful dress.

BIC: How would you describe what the brand stands for to a child who has never heard of Maserati? And how would it recognize a Maserati on the road then?

KB: It might be difficult to explain to a child, but for me it’s important that Maserati embodies the idea of the GranTurismo, which is the dream of traveling far with comfort and performance. We combine these two elements like no other brand on the GranTurismo theme. Our brand-defining vehicle, the Maserati GranTurismo, now in its 2nd generation, takes its name from this very idea. When it comes to how you recognize a Maserati, I would call it a rolling sculpture. I am therefore also very positive about the electric drive because it is also quiet. So in the future, you’ll see a Maserati driving into town as a beautiful, quietly rolling sculpture that doesn’t announce itself by sound five minutes in advance. Maseratis are also deliberately designed without unnecessary wings, air intakes or air outlets.

BIC: You say you’ve done a lot of research into Italian aesthetics and culture. Can you tell us how much Verdi, Michelangelo or Botticelli are in Cielo and how we recognize them?

KB: Clearly, Leonardo da Vinci. Because for da Vinci, art was a byproduct of innovation. My team and I like to talk about “when science creates art.” There are a couple of nice examples in the design of the MC20 where, for technical reasons, we had to make cooling slots on the engine cover even though we didn’t really want to do them. These trident-shaped cooling vents have become the most photographed element of the vehicle. From my point of view, this is a beautiful example where out of technical necessity something was created that became an iconic element.

BIC: But in the end, you stand on stage and present the new product to the world. Does the identification of an automotive brand in a world of ego brands today only function via types?

KB: Interesting question. I have a hard time with that. We know this phenomenon from the -fashion industry, where the creative boss has a whole studio of hard-working designers behind him who develop -his collections, the boss then joins in now and then, raises or lowers his thumbs and takes the credit at the end. At Maserati, we believe in the power of collaboration and sharing ideas. I work with a great team, highly professional, and everyone here brings unique skills that make every goal we achieve a team success.

BIC: But this is not just a phenomenon of the fashion industry.

KB: That’s right. Basically, this already existed in his time with the great Italian car designers. They were all charismatic types who stood for a certain design, but they by no means drew everything themselves. Automotive design is a team sport. There is no other way. And the thing is, designers in particular often have biographies that scream ‘rock star’ far more than my own.

BIC: Can you give a few examples here?

KB: I’d rather not. Colleagues may still want to make a career of it (laughs).

BIC: Pity.

KB: Wait. I can tell you one anecdote. It’s about one of my former designers. He is now retired and therefore has nothing to lose.

BIC: Now we are curious.

KB: He was actually in a rock band, but that was a very long time ago. As long as Deep Purple still played with him as an opening band. Of course, at that time they also hung out in the corresponding bars and clubs and in one of them it was customary to bring your own beer, because at some point the drinks ran out and whoever wanted to drink something then had to bring his own beer. Had my former designer, of course, and so, according to the story, he was leaning against the bar, drinking with relish the beer he had brought himself, when a guy came up to him and wanted his beer. He replies, in keeping with his station, “Fuck off!”

BIC: And then it came to a brawl?

KB: No. The guy just walked away.

BIC: And where’s the punch line there?

KB: The guy’s name was Ozzy Osbourne. One of my former designers turned away an Ozzy Osbourne scrounging for beer (laughs out loud)! How am I supposed to get up on stage today and be a design rock star?