Claus Johannes Luthe, born December 8, 1932 in Wuppertal, Germany, was a prominent automotive designer who left an indelible mark on the history of automotive design. Recognized for his talent and contributions to brands such as NSU, Audi and BMW, Luthe became an iconic figure in the industry.
The beginnings of a legend
Luthe began his career as an apprentice at Karosseriebauer Voll in Würzburg, where he worked on proposals for buses. He then joined Deutsche Fiat AG, where he was responsible for the front-end design of the iconic Fiat 500. His talent soon caught the attention of NSU, where he became a key player in the development of the Design Department.
Innovation and Legacy at NSU
During his time at NSU, Luthe left his mark on iconic projects such as the NSU Ro 80, renowned for its cutting-edge aesthetics and revolutionary mechanical innovations. Its clean wedge-shaped design, combined with innovations such as four-wheel independent suspension and semi-automatic gearbox, made the Ro 80 a milestone in automotive design.
He also contributed to the NSU Prinz 4, adapting design elements from the Chevrolet Corvair, which gave the model a new direction and captured the attention of the German middle-class market.
After the acquisition of NSU by Volkswagen, Luthe continued his legacy at Audi. His hand can be seen in the Audi 50, predecessor of the first generation of the Volkswagen Polo. In addition, he left his mark on the second generation of the Audi 100, evidencing his ability to create both exterior and interior designs.
The BMW Chapter and its lasting impact
In 1976, Luthe assumed the role of Head of Design at BMW, guiding the company towards bolder and more creative designs. Under his leadership, significant redesigns were carried out, such as the 5 Series, solving economic challenges without compromising design quality.
However, his masterpiece was the iconic BMW 7 Series, where he defied convention with a wedge-shaped design and distinctive L-shaped taillights. This innovative vision made a significant difference in the automotive industry, exceeding the expectations of even the demanding Herbert Quandt, chairman of BMW.