NON-ITALIAN stylists play increasingly important roles at Fiat Auto - and none more so than Peter Fassbender, a German. Fassbender oversees exterior design for the Fiat brand, including most recently the new Stilo. He was born in Saarbrucken and has lived in Cologne and Coburn, where his father worked for automotive supplier Boge. Fassbender studied vehicle design at the University College for Building and Design in Pforzheim. He attended classes alongside other top stylists including Claus Potthoff (exterior of the Audi A6) and Stefan Kohl (Mercedes-Benz CLK).
Name: Peter Fassbender.
Current title: Head of exterior design, Fiat Central Design Studios.
Previous title: Design manager, Fiat Central Design Studios.
Lives in: Turin, Italy.
Languages: German, Italian, English.
First job in the car business: Entry-level designer for Fiat. After university, I just packed up my drawings and my car models and went to Turin. Within a week I had visited all the studios. Soon, I started at Fiat, where I have stayed for 12 years.
What was your first design job at Fiat?
Designing the registration plate holder for the Fiat Croma. A very tiny detail. Then a mock air vent on the (fender) of the Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione.
What was next?
I was allowed to help Andrea Sabbatina on the Fiat Barchetta. Then I worked on a full-size model for the Fiat Coupe. Thank God my [Bravo] design was not chosen because the one picked was much better and a great success. I worked with the very experienced designer Mauro Basso, who made the front for both the Bravo and Brava. He was on my design team for the Stilo and was a decisive force.
Do you love only your computer?
Thank God, no. I am still looking for the perfect lady. But I can't design one that would agree with me.
What are your hobbies?
Tennis, snowboarding, painting and Web design, Internet surfing.
When do you read?
In bed before going to sleep. I like Umberto Eco.
I like the nightlife of Turin and Milan and seeing how tastes in colors and shapes are changing.
Do you prefer life in southern Europe or in your home country?
I feel good anywhere in the world. I like it in Japan, and I feel as good in northern Europe as in the south. I love new cultures and languages.
What bothers you?
Intolerance. I try to find something positive in everybody and to overlook weaknesses.
What attracts you?
People who emanate warmth of feeling. What I especially value are good relationships kept up over a number of years.
Are you a team player?
Yes, it is enormously important to have good teamwork. This is the soul of our work. If you cannot rely on your colleagues, nothing will come out of your work. We work together all day and in the evening we go out together and have a lot of fun. We are a wholly international crowd.
So you have a real artistic atmosphere in the design center?
It could be still more artistic. We have an industrial product embedded very deeply in the production process. Ideas must be put into a real shape and you have to prove they can be produced. You need a lot of know-how to find the solution.
Fiat sets its internal design staff against independent Turin designers. Are there hard feelings among you?
No, we all know one another, sit down together and sometimes help one another. There is an aura in Turin. It is good to encourage competition in the Mecca of design.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
I can take criticism from colleagues - depending on who they are, of course. First, we have to look for criticism among our own designers because it's too late when we get criticism from outside. But all designers, including ones at other brands, know that every design is a compromise. We don't criticize each other too sharply.
Would you like to design without others controlling the result?
Of course. The best design is created without anybody looking on.
Do you want to stay with Fiat?
I feel very good with Fiat. There I have the chance to get cars into production. Your car runs on the street, the sun reflects on it. And that's what design is about.