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What the all-electric future of Maserati will look like

Forget what you know about Maserati. Having recently launched its first supercar in 15 years, ushered in hybrid options for its biggest-selling models and shown off the crucial new Grecale SUV, the brand will now shift focus to a rapid electrification push which will see it launch its final combustion car by 2025.

That would be a landmark move for any car manufacturer, but for 107-year-old Maserati – so steeped in motorsport heritage and so intrinsically associated with the guttural roar of an atmo V8 – it’s nothing less than all-out reinvention. For Klaus Busse, vice president of design for parent company Stellantis, it’s an opportunity to reimagine the brand’s image completely.

We caught up with Busse as he unwrapped the Grecale to hear how he created an all-new proposition for Maserati, and get some clues to what’s coming next as the brand electrifies.

How did you differentiate the Maserat Grecale from the Maserati Levante?

“We have, with the Levante, Ghibli and Quattroporte, one family of cars in terms of design, and the design DNA [of Grecale] was created about three and a half years ago when we started with Grecale and the MC20, because we wanted to create a new chapter for Maserati. The MC20 was such an important new milestone, it deserved a step forward in the design.

“The second step was then to apply the design of the MC20 to the Grecale, and through that process you automatically get that differentiation, because the Levante is a much more horizontal design. We were able to purify the car even more; the Ghibli, Quattroporte and Levante all have more line work on the body, and we were able to work with the engineers to get more sculpture in the car, take off more lines and focus on the body itself.”

Which elements will we see on future Maseratis?

“There are some very visual things: there’s the face which you have seen on the MC20 – it has the same lighting signature, the low mouth and high-mounted lights. This is the new face of Maserati with MC20, Grecale and also – we’ve revealed – with the Granturismo. The philosophy of driving purity to the maximum, while at the same time on the lower part of the car allowing the engineers to express functionality and performance was important because when we created this design DNA, we looked into society as a context: where are we, and where is society heading?

“We didn’t want to design a car for Instagram, we didn’t want to design a car that shouts ‘look at me’ and is too aggressive in its appearance. We wanted to design a car that, to a point, adds visual value – if you see a Maserati it adds beauty to the environment. It’s a rolling sculpture, and sculpture for us, especially in Italy, is about proportions and shapes, not decorative, two-dimensional features, creases or unnecessary air intakes or – god forbid – fake exhaust pipes.

“There’s a certain authenticity in the design, but foremost a purity.”

The rear lights are inspired by the Maserati 3200GT – does looking back at historical models excite you?

“The answer is actually no. Of course we look back – the other day someone asked me what I think are the 50 most iconic cars ever, and it was a really beautiful exercise to go spontaneously through what I think are the most iconic cars – not only Maserati but globally. Actually I came up with 60…

“It’s not so much about retro design. I speak a lot about purity but at the same time you need to see that this is a Maserati. Look at the cars on the road and pretend you don’t know the brands – if you can’t see the badge or logo, how many elements does the car need to show you what it is? There are cars out there that need five, six, seven, 10 or 15 small elements to tell the brand message, and then there are cars – I’ll give you a good example: the seven-slot grille of Jeep – where you only need one.

“For Maserati it was important that the front, side and rear have at least one very clear element: the front has the face with the Trident, the side has wheels where we’ve completely changed the approach, and at the rear, we said the 3200GT lights were such a provocative detail back then, that we thought ‘why not? It’s a very strong detail associated with Maserati.”

Have you taken inspiration from other cars in this segment?

“We do that, but probably not the way you expect. I do not look at design features – it’s about: what are they giving the customer, what do they do better and what can we do better? For us it was important to never forget the actual use case of the car, which is comfort, storage, intuitiveness, everything in the right spot…

“I also observe what the market is doing with screens. To what extent are we getting to ‘screen peak’ – is a screen detox needed? For us, Maserati is always about experiencing performance. You want to experience the car, not be distracted by mega-screens. We have quite large screens in this car but we have configuration modes on the cluster – my favourite is Relax mode, because it will only give you the minimum important information, and that’s what’s important: when you drive a Maserati, it’s about rewarding yourself and not distracting yourself with unnecessary graphics.

How do you change your design approach for EVs?

“The Folgore is based on the same fundamental underpinnings, which means we’re working with something that’s 90% clear. The three areas we focus on are the different cooling requirements, the more aggressive aerodynamic expectations – which had an impact on the wheels and the door handles – and the communication: the copper, for example, and you don’t see a light blue here because it’s not performance.”

Will you miss combustion power?

“I drive a Grancabrio with a naturally aspirated V8 – so those morning cold starts are a special moment. But at the end of the day you cannot ignore the reality of the times. The moment it dawned on me that even electric cars can be absolutely amazing comes back to around four years ago when we were forcing ourselves to have that discussion in the design studio, to not be surprised by requests from product planning.

“We were challenging ourselves, and we did an interesting exercise. We took a video of the 1954 Pininfarina-designed A6 GCS – for me, the most beautiful Maserati – driving through the streets of Brescha. We muted the engine sound and played classical music, and that was the key moment where I thought: ‘oh my God, it’s actually so much more powerful’. It doesn’t announce itself from a mile away – it just sneaks up on you.”

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