Meet Maria Greger: Mazda Europe’s interior design chief


Meet Maria Greger: Mazda Europe’s interior design chief

Based in Frankfurt, Maria Greger leads Mazda’s European Colour and Materials team. In her 25 years at Mazda, Greger has worked on a wide range of models, from the very first Mazda6 to the recent CX-30, with various concept cars along the way. As her retirement approaches, Mazda Stories finds out more about her career.

What do you do at Colour and Materials?

My team researches trends that are important to the Mazda market. Not only do we look at colour and material, but also at social ideas, furniture trends and product trends in magazines and online. We also visit furniture fairs like those at Milan and Cologne, product fairs such as Ambiente in Frankfurt and fashion fairs like Première Vision in Paris. From all of this information we put together material, colour and interior design ideas for Mazda. The teams in the U.S. and Japan do the same and then headquarters decides how these ideas will be used in developing the car.

How did you end up working for Mazda? Were you always interested in cars?

To be perfectly honest I never really understood why people got so excited about cars until I started working in the industry myself. I trained as a textile designer and I’ve always loved working with materials, colours, textures and surfaces. After my studies, I started making car fabrics at a supplier to the automotive industry who worked with Mazda. From there I understood how a complete product was tied together by different views and materials, which ignited my enthusiasm and led me to become a senior designer at Mazda.

Why did you choose Mazda over other car companies?

I liked that it was a smaller company and the cars included the MX-5, the Xenos and the Mazda 121. It also helped that Mazda is a Japanese company as I’m interested in Japanese aesthetic and culture; the simplicity of things, the high-quality feel you get with lacquer bowls, with kimonos and Japanese furniture and architecture all appeal to me. Mazda Kodo design is also very simple and iconic, and in combining this with the Soul Red colour I think we’ve made an extraordinary statement. That, along with high-quality design, exceptional engineering and technology, is what makes Mazda so special.

“We look at colour and material, social ideas, furniture and product trends.”

Maria Greger, Mazda’s European Interior Design Chief

You have worked on a wide range of Mazda models. Do you have any favourites?

The CX-30, which we developed here in Europe and saw through to preproduction. Usually, projects end up being a combination of suggestions from offices around the world. But this time headquarters completely realized our proposals, which was very satisfying. In particular, our colleagues in production did an outstanding job.

What’s it been like to work as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

My managers were always interested in my team’s opinions and in supporting women. However, it might be helpful to have more female influence in decision-making. Many of our customers are women who enjoy sporty cars but they also need practicality. They transport children, and they want storage space and accessibility. For women to succeed they should focus on what they want to achieve with a car, and not too much on whether they are working in a female or male industry.

What has changed since you began working at Mazda and what are your expectations for the future?

With the premium cars we’re creating, colour and material have become more important than ever. We select even higher-quality materials which are also more sustainable, and craftsmanship has become a real focal point for the Mazda interior. You notice it in the premium leathers, woods and metal finishes. With the CX-30, we have started using recycled materials in the door panels, and in the MX-30 you see materials such as cork and recycled plastic bottles. In an electric vehicle like the MX-30, customers expect a more environmentally friendly interior, and like all companies Mazda will need to continue along this path.

Finally, in your years at Mazda, what have you enjoyed the most?

The experience of working with so many different cultures, from America to Asia, in one team together. I have enjoyed my many visits to Japan—Hiroshima is a very nice city, with all its canals, and Tokyo is exciting but huge. The place I liked most is Kyoto. I went to the Philosopher’s Walk, which is a very pleasant stone path through Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. It follows a canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees and leads to beautiful temples and shrines.

Words Edward Rekkers

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