Porsche will present the new fully electric Macan on Thursday, January 25, 2024. The second generation of the successful SUV will be unveiled in Singapore, the world premiere will be broadcast live in the Porsche Newsroom.
Shortly before the world premiere of the new Porsche Macan, Michael Mauer talks about the challenge of further developing the well-known design of the successful SUV. “The new Macan is the first model that we electrify from an existing, established product identity,” said the head of Style Porsche. For him, “every new sports car must be clearly recognizable as part of the Porsche product family and respective model, but must also be perceived as ‘the new one’”. This aesthetic consistency is very important for the Porsche brand. Finding exactly the right balance between “typically Porsche” and “innovative” is a difficult task, says the designer.
New drive offers degrees of freedom and challenges at the same time
The switch from the combustion engine to the 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 fully electric Macan?
Michael Mauer: Before we think specifically about the design, the strategic approach to design plays a crucial role. What makes the model special? 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 carefully but consistently developed the model since then. Generally speaking, the Macan already has an internationally established product identity. With each new generation, our job is to find the right balance between familiar design features and new elements. Specifically: Every new sports car must be clearly recognizable as part of the Porsche product family and 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 electrify from an existing, established product identity. So the question arises: How “new” does the “new” have to be – what is too much, what is just right?
How do you manage to find the balance? Which parameters can be used to determine whether the model will be well received by customers?
Mauer: That’s generally a difficult question – the design process lies years before the market launch. There are no strictly rational parameters by which we can evaluate the attractiveness of a model in the future. At the brand level, we have defined a kind of guideline with the Porsche design principles that helps us align the design with our strategic goals in our daily work on the models. For the Porsche brand, we have chosen three key terms: Focus, Tension and Purpose, which describe the character of the brand. To put it a little more simply, you could say: These key words describe what makes a product from the Porsche brand special – what allows the customer to experience it as a “typical Porsche”.
How did these come about? How do you specifically find application?
Mauer: To exaggerate a bit, 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. The same applies here: This 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. There are many ways to name the specific application: On the one hand, we use the terms as a kind of compass to ensure that we do not lose sight of the essence of the brand when looking into the future. On the other hand, they serve as a decision-making aid as to which approaches we will pursue further in an early concept phase.
Can you give a concrete example of the implementation of a key term ?
Mauer : This can be explained well using the example of “Focus”. In relation to the interior, focus means that in a Porsche sports car the driver is always the center of attention. Specifically: All of the components that are important to the driver are arranged around him and within his direct access. With the so-called curved display, we go one step further: With the free-floating display element in a slightly curved shape that is ideal for the driver, we align this central instrument even more consistently with the driver. We have also created a kind of “minimal mode” in the instrument cluster. If desired, the driver can only select the elements that are absolutely necessary for the journey. So to speak, focusing on what is absolutely necessary.
To what extent do different international preferences and trends play a role in the design process?
Mauer: In general, I am of the opinion that the right balance is crucial here for a strongly established brand like Porsche. A brand with a distinctive identity also thrives on not following every trend. Sometimes it is the better strategy not to always be the first with every topic. It’s about questioning trends and influences and critically examining whether they fit 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. An example: In Asia, digital elements in cars play a very important role – the overall design is more playful from a European perspective. What does this mean for Porsche? The consequence is that we look at these needs very closely. 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 no longer up-to-date?
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 is never entirely the work of a single designer. Design is teamwork and relies heavily on the exchange of different ideas. At Porsche, we have consciously created the creative freedom to think about future approaches and characteristics of individual design elements, away from working on specific models. In this way, we ensure that creative ideas can emerge regardless of the series process. It is not uncommon for these to actually be incorporated into series vehicles later on. Another important aspect is the composition of the team. We deliberately combine very experienced designers with the “young, wild ones” – this exchange usually results in super exciting approaches. In total we employ around 200 design employees.
What influence do the new technical components have in 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. with the arrangement of various components in the car. The packaging is crucial for the basic proportion – the typical Porsche flyline could not be implemented 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 have a greater expression of 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 possibly disrupt the defining width-height ratio. Of course, aerodynamics also play a major role in terms of range in an electric sports car. In principle, 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 regarding the approval of individual elements such as the design of front and rear lights.
Specifically related to the new, fully electric Macan: How important is the visualization of the electric drive in the design?
Mauer: In general, we at Porsche have decided not to completely distinguish the electric models from the combustion engine sports cars. 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 give up our established Porsche Design DNA. Without revealing too much about the details: At first glance, the new, electric Macan is also clearly recognizable as a Porsche and a Macan. I would say: We have basically 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 one looks even sportier and more dynamic. The driving pleasure is definitely reflected in the design.