Of course like so many brilliant car industry engineers he is fluent in English, not just ‘a coffee please’ holiday-English, but full-on technical English.
We Brit hacks take it for granted that overseas engineers and designers can field questions in fluent technical English, but we shouldn’t.
So when a journalist probes with a long speech masquerading as a rambling question (not me, clearly), he absorbs the message and fires back a succinct answer. Impressive, as always.
Amongst many nuggets that will form the basis of a future story, he told us that the turbocharged 911 has been in development since the 991 series was launched four years ago, with full-on production engineering in swing for just two years.
Porsche then slipped in an unexpected opportunity to talk to Michael Mauer, design director since 2004.
The 53-year old Mauer is tanned and initially reserved, but relaxes as the questions flow, and also has an excellent command of English, helped by a career mostly played out in the limelight, including significant spells at Mercedes, GM and Saab.
Mauer has been at the helm of design in the fastest expansion period in Porsche’s history, when it has added the Panamera, Macan and 918 Spyder, while revamping the Boxster/Cayman, 911 and Cayenne.
In that sense Mauer should go down in history as the most influential Porsche designer since his predecessor Harm Lagaay.
One of his most interesting comments was to reveal that Porsche boss Matthias Muller spends a lot of time in the design studio supporting Mauer and his team.
For Mauer it means that the boss is fully informed when the key decisions need to be made. Mauer, for example, was able to get Muller’s support to rejig the 991 Gen 2 project budget so the door handles could be re-designed — a feature that Mauer wanted to change.
Finally, Porsche fronted-up Stephan Weckbach, responsible for the Mission E project. Weckbach is in his late 30s, has been in charge of the Boxster/Cayman line for two years.Relaxed and enthusiastic, Weckbach appears to be taking the additional responsibility for a car described as ‘potentially as important as the 911’ in his stride.
The car industry is adopting a new technical language around electrification – pouch cells, controllers, voltages and kilowatt hours are just as likely to slip into a conversation as horsepower these days and Weckbach is at the forefront.
He’s also helped by a brilliant command of colloquial English, and as an example of the engineer of the future suggests that Porsche will be in as very good hands in the coming decade as the past.