BMW's Bangle says buh-bye
That seems to be the yet undefined legacy for BMW Group's suddenly former design head Chris Bangle, left, who is quitting "to pursue his own design-related endeavors beyond the auto industry," his previous employer announced today.
Adrian van Hooydonk, head of design for BMW brand, will succeed Bangle.
After initial stints at Opel and Fiat, Bangle became the first Yank chief of design of BMW in 1992, where he penned the Z9 Gran Turismo concept car, right. Then, after conservative redesigns of the 1999 BMW 3-Series and first BMW X5, Bangle dropped his first bomb on the design world with the 2001 7 Series, below left.
What followed—“flame surfacing,” “Bangle Butt”—they say, will be either Bangle’s legacy or ignominy.
As radical as his designs were to those who were use to a BMW look dating back over three decades, the man’s intellect and depth of thought has rarely been seen in the industry where automotive aesthetic decisions can be made by accountants, company scions—or the worst—customer focus groups.
At an AutoWeek design conference I attended in the early Naughties, Bangle opened the kimono and led the audience through an internal presentation that he ostensibly would have used to sell the BMW board of directors and executives on why a sharp turn left in design was needed to keep the business healthy and the copycats at bay.
As someone who once paid the bills selling right-brain creative concepts to left-brain engineering types, I always had a great deal of respect for Bangle as an uncompromisingly successful internal corporate salesman. Especially within a Teutonic company as tightly handcuffed to its own history as BMW.
To the beancounters at BMW, the proof in the pudding came in 2006 when BMW past Mercedes-Benz in worldwide luxury car sales.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But some thought Bangle’s designs were like a sharp poke in the retina with a sharp stick.
So the verdict still stands—Chris Bangle: Creative god? Or design hack?
[Source: Automotive News]