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Automotive Artist Profile: Klaus Busse, Vice President of Design, FCA Europe

If you have been in a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, or Ram in the last ten years, then you have seen the interior handiwork of Klaus Busse. Together with his team of designers, Mr. Busse would overhaul the interior cabins of most of the line-ups in those brands and also created some Easter Eggs that Jeep owners love. Those overhauls were badly needed. But, who is Klaus Busse?

Klaus Busse - VP of Interior Design for FCA 2015 | FCA
Klaus Busse – VP of Interior Design for FCA 2015 | FCA

How did he get to FCA?

Klaus Busse was born in Minden, Germany. After receiving his BA in transportation design from Coventry University, he started working for Mercedes-Benz. A short while later, the new DaimlerChrysler needed a manager. So, Mr. Busse moved in 2005 to Auburn Hills, Michigan, to be the Manager of Interior Design for Ram Trucks. 

Even though DaimlerChrysler would cease to exist in 2007, Mr. Busse stayed to take on new projects under the new FCA. His hand at design would be flexed with a team that would revise the 2009 Ram 1500 interior, changing what was once referred to as a horrid interior cabin, to an award-winning one.

Ram 1500 Texas Ranger Concept Interior | FCA
Ram 1500 Texas Ranger Concept Interior | FCA

Zero to Hero

Mr. Busse would go on to influence many other interior spaces of FCA vehicles. For starters, the Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500L, among others, all had his oversight. Each received responses that were overwhelmingly positive. In fact, many have referred what he and his team did as taking FCA interiors from zero to hero

Inspiration

In an interview with Fortune magazine, while describing the inspiration Mr. Busse and his team would move forward from, he would say,

“My team has amazing ideas when it comes to materials and colors. For the Renegade, Jeep’s first small SUV, we looked at “renegade” or sports-like base jumping, parkour running, or sand surfing to create a unique color palette for this vehicle” 

Mr. Busse also draws inspiration from other designers. He was asked by Goodwood Road and Racing, who his top five go-to designers are. He would go on to list,

  • Ralph Gilles: A co-worker at FCA whom he considers his mentor.
  • Lorenzo Ramaciotti: Whom he would find great wisdom in. In fact, while working with him, Busse just wanted to shut up and listen.
  • Daniel Simon: Author of the Cosmic Motors book and with whom Busse is good friends with. 
  • Zaha Hadid: An Iraqi-British architect that is not afraid to push design boundaries in structures that include artistic expression. Her works have included Olympic buildings, museums, and an airport.
  • Santiago Calatrava: A Spanish architect, structural engineer, and sculpture artist. His works include stadiums, museums, and bridges.
Jeep Renegade Interior | FCA
Jeep Renegade Interior | FCA

It’s safe to say that Mr. Busse looked for inspiration from anywhere in the world. Shapes, materials, and colors are all things he and his team approach from an open perspective when starting a new project, even if that project is not automotive in nature. For example, he has worked on yacht design before. 

In an interview with Top Yacht Design, Mr. Busse would say, 

“the most important thing in any design, be it a yacht or a supercar, is to establish a communications channel on an emotional level with the end-user, to allow them to have the most unique and involving experience possible.”

He continued, 

“It all starts with a blank sheet of paper,” comments Busse. “When I am designing, I put all rationale aside. I let feelings guide my pencil. Inspiration to me is a creative energy that I open up to and unleash.”

He influenced everything the customer touches

Busse and his team would go on to leave their mark in many of FCA’s vehicles. If it was was a surface the customer touched, he and his team more than likely had a hand in its design. But, his influence was not entirely about the interior of vehicles. The most obvious exterior touches are the Easter Eggs found throughout the Jeep line-up. In an interview with Automotive News, it would be revealed that Busse, 

“encouraged his designers to incorporate “Easter eggs” into their designs, especially with Jeeps. As a result, Jeeps headlamps, wheel rims, and windshields are branded with small, subtle images of Jeep’s iconic seven-slot grill or a 1942 Willys MB climbing a rock”.

Awards

Mr. Busse has received many awards throughout the years. Some of the most notable ones are below.

  • In 2013, Busse would become the first automotive interior designer named to the Automotive News, All Star for Design, award. 
  • According to Mr. Busse’s  LinkedIn account, In 2015 he received the Industry Innovator of the Year award.
  • And, a few years later, Motor Trend would also recognize him as part of their 2019 Power List. 

Mr. Busse recently took on other responsibilities. His banner has changed from the American brands that are under FCA, to reviving other brands this time as Vice President of design for FCA Europe. Those brands would be Fiat, Abarth, Lancia, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo.

Mr. Busse’s influence on a decade’s worth of FCA vehicles means that most of us, if not all of us, have either owned or ridden in a vehicle that has had his design influence upon it. If the accolades he’s received through the years are any indication, he’s done a lot to update people’s perception of what an interior should be. Soft-touch materials, flowing design language, natural color choices, and even hidden Easter Eggs have given cabin occupants the look and feel of plusher modern comfort. A hat-tip of respect to you, Mr. Busse.