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Q&A with Maserati and Zegna

By Alexandra Neuman, 24 Jul 2015 Car Style

Q&A with Maserati and Zegna

WhichCar chats to the CEO of Maserati, Harald Wester, and Ermenegildo Zegna’s Chief Marketing Officer, Antonio Burrello.

Q: HOW DID THE TWO COMPANIES GET TOGETHER IN THE BEGINNING?

Wester: Maserati were always looking for a list of top partners for activities to add even more luxury to our brand than what the car itself stands for. And Zegna was always in the top position. But, there was never really the opportunity.

Both companies are family-owned and the families obviously know each other. There was a meeting between the two presidents – John Elkann and Gildo (Zegna) – and they sat together and concluded that the time was mature to start. So I personally met Gildo for the first time, I think it was, in March 2013.

Q: WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO USE SILK IN THE CAR INTERIORS?

Wester: We sat down together and had all these brainstorming sessions. And Gildo said: “You know what the latest evolution in luxury menswear is; silk.” Honestly, no. I had no idea.

The engineer in me always said “oh, it will never ever work”. And then I said, “We may try it. Give me a piece of silk”.

We wrapped it over some seats, and we got it into our standard testing. To be honest, after not even 10 per cent of the duty cycle of wear getting in and out of a car and sitting in the seat, it looked like a Swiss cheese. It did not work.

Q: SO HOW LONG WAS IT BEFORE YOU COULD GET IT TO WORK?

Wester: Altogether it took us over a year before we had the first application of a limited edition.

I want to underline, it is not a blend. It is 100 per cent silk; the finest and the most expensive raw material you can buy. It costs a fortune and it fulfills 100 per cent of automotive standards; mechanical, thermal, UV resistance, humidity. Every requirement!

Q: WHAT DOES THE CUSTOMER GET FROM CHOOSING A CAR WITH THE SILK INTERIOR? WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

Wester: From our perspective we are a luxury car company [and] we have grown significantly over the last few years. We sold slightly over 6000 cars in 2012, over 15,500 in 2013 and 36,500 last year and our customers are special.

When you come to customers [who] are buying these types of cars, you believe you [are doing] something special [by] providing a limited edition of 100 cars. But, then a typical response I got was: “You know what? One of 100, okay, but real luxury is one of a kind… mine”.

Whether this is made up of the finest wool, or made of silk, you can’t really see it, but you know it. And it adds something to your well-being.

As we are more and more moving in this direction, of luxury, of customisation, to me it was clear that this was the right thing.

Burrello: It’s to give the customer something that not everyone can have. This is really an extra dimension for us. We are menswear, men love cars, so the feeling of getting into the car is really important for us.

Q: CAN YOU TELL US HOW IT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED ACROSS THE RANGE?

Wester: We will start now with the Ghibli and Quattroporte, the latest cars in our new range [and] next year we will have the Levante (the first ever Maserati SUV, due to go into production early next year). The Zegna Interior Pack will be able to be ordered in the future, or something similar, on all of our products.

All our cars come with standard equipment leather, but many of our customers, up to 60 per cent, today buy premium leather for a significant plus in price. And tomorrow, for a similar amount of money, you can buy this silk option.

Maserati will become one of the biggest customers of Zegna.

Burrello: As far as silk metres, for sure!

Q: WILL THE SILK INTERIOR BE TAILORED TO DIFFERENT MARKETS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE WORLD?

Wester: The taste of customers is totally different, as are the demographics. The typical Maserati customer in Western Europe, in the more mature markets, and in the North American region, is male, 55, very distinctive. Asia-Pacific, in particular China, is totally different. 40 per cent of our customers are female, very young, below 40. And obviously they have a totally different taste. They buy totally different colours.

So what we decided, for the first roll-out of this plan, was to choose a relatively neutral mid-grey for the silk fabric and the customers can combine it with different leather colours and different exterior colours. The colour of the silk, for the time being, stays the same. For sure we’re going to modify this over time.

Q: CAN YOU GIVE US AN IDEA OF HOW MUCH SILK YOU NEED FOR A SUIT AND HOW MUCH SILK YOU NEED FOR A CAR, ROUGHLY?

Burrello: A suit is roughly 3.10 metres in fabric. I think the car is, what, 12?

Q: DO YOU HAVE TO TEST THE FABRIC FOR PEOPLE SPILLING HOT DRINKS ON IT, BECAUSE YOU HAVE CUP HOLDERS IN THE CAR?

Wester: I mean, a bottle of red wine is a bottle of red wine, and when you spill it into a car it looks like shit afterwards. It doesn’t matter which fabric; on polyester or on silk.

Q: WHY DO YOU THINK THE ZEGNA INTERIOR PACK HAS BEEN AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE SUCCESSFUL?

Wester: You know what? The more I am doing this with Maserati, the more I understand what the people are really looking for. I mean, all these cold, technocratic premium cars. They are quasi-perfect pieces of engineering, but there is no soul, there is no life.

Nobody really wants to be embedded in a sea of sameness. But what the people really want, in particular the Maserati people, is an exterior [that has] timeless, classic [and] elegant styling.

Therefore I’m totally convinced this Zegna Edition Silk Interior Pack will be a success. They see this as an extension of their personal and their private living environment.