BMW it or hate it?

Discussion in 'Other Off Topic Forum' started by need4speed, Apr 7, 2004.

  1. need4speed

    need4speed Formula 3

    Nov 3, 2003
    Pacific Palisades
    Copyright 2004 The Financial Times Limited
    Financial Times (London, England)

    March 2, 2004 Tuesday


    LENGTH: 1150 words

    HEADLINE: Bangle makes waves This man designs fancy cars. So why do people want to kill him, asks John Arlidge



    With his Noel Edmonds-style beard, geeky glasses and neat suit, Chris Bangle does not look like an international hate figure. Standing on a sun-drenched street corner in Munich, he has the air of a trendy American vicar on holiday in southern Germany. But Bangle is a marked man. He receives sack-loads of hate mail and even the odd death threat. Dozens of websites want his head on a plate. Headlines scream: "Is this man off his trolley?" He is accused of being "a spanner", "a wrecker" and much, much worse.

    No designer has caused such worldwide controversy. None has had to withstand such rabid criticism. And none of it shows the slightest sign of going away. So what is Bangle's crime? He is the car man who "thinks outside the metal box".

    Bangle is tearing up the style sheet one of the world's most profitable luxury car firms: BMW. Since he arrived at the company's Munich headquarters, he has dumped the marque's traditional, restrained "form follows function" design faster than you can say "ultimate driving machine" and replaced it with a radical new 3D, sculptural aesthetic.

    His cars - the 7 Series limousine, the 6 Series Grand Tourer, the 5 Series saloon and the Z4 roadster - boast explosive, exuberant curved flanks, sharp-cut bonnets, stubby boots and snarky lights. On the inside he has dumped walnut and leather trim in favour of cool-touch metal, nubuck and neoprene surfaces. A single computer mouse-style knob, called iDrive, controls everything from the air conditioning system to the CD player.

    Supporters praise him as the "Frank Gehry of car design". They say he is the first designer to move a luxury car firm away from retro designs (Jaguar) or minimalism (Audi), and instead embrace a sculptural, modern elegance. But traditionalists condemn him as a loose cannon who is destroying half a century of sober, self- confident styling. Car magazines dismiss him as "the nutty professor". Fortune, a title not noted for a *****y, tabloid style, recently published a photograph of the 7 Series under the headline: "Do you think this car is ugly?" And hundreds of thousands of BMW owners in Europe and America have sent a petition to BMW boss, Helmut Panke, accusing Bangle of being "a diabolical super-robot sent from the future by Mercedes-Benz to destroy BMW".

    The son of a travelling salesman from Ohio, the 48-year-old Bangle trained to become a Methodist minister until he joined the Pasadena Art Centre College of Design in 1977, where he studied product design. After college, he joined Opel as an interior designer, and then moved on to Fiat, ending up at BMW in 1992 as head of design.

    Bangle has managed to become one of the most controversial car designers of his age simply by daring to do something different. "Cars have been too alike for too long," he says. "Ninety per cent are boxes that go from A to B. Those vehicles are dead. They are horizontal excuses for an elevator. We need to get away from that. At BMW we are creating a new animal, a new species. It's challenging, so it's no surprise that sometimes things get turbulent."

    As he tries to create new, emotive shapes, Bangle has introduced new terms into the language of car design. He uses the expression "flame surfacing" to describe the way light flows over the concave and convex surfaces of his cars. He likens the curves on his cars to flags blowing in the wind or the billowing sails of a yacht. "We want to cast off the traditional wedge shape of most cars in favour of cantilevered forms and sculpture," he says. "We want to use softer shapes, shapes that have no fixed start and finish point, to create new kind of visual dynamic."

    No one doubts Bangle's passion and commitment, but why, critics ask, is BMW ditching a style that no one really complained about and which has helped the firm to set new sales records year after year? Bangle believes that compared with architecture, interior design, fashion and graphic design, car design is behind the curve. To stay relevant, prestige brands such as BMW have to move fast to catch up.

    "Many people in the car world do not want to move forward. They have looked down the tunnel forwards and have said: 'We don't like where it's going. So, we are going to stop and we are going to go backwards. We are going to relive the past by doing retro-style cars, such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser. That does not help us, does not move us forward. What we should be asking is how can we make cars better and make them apply to our current culture and current lives."

    He picks an example. "The soft folds in the metal on the exterior of the new BMW 5 Series came from the world of fashion. The folds, called splines, look like creases in cloth. They use technology that has never been used before in car design. They look great and very modern, which make them right for BMW and right for now."

    Bangle is convinced BMW's new styling suits the times. "Design goes in phases. Sometimes simple shapes predominate and sometimes the visual density increases. In the 1950s, for example, car designers added all sorts of chrome fins and gills. In the 1990s, super- simple shapes dominated. We're now trying to get away from the super simple and move to something more visually dense."

    Could he be right? As minimalism begins to wane in almost every area, are there signs that Bangle's aesthetic is beginning to win over customers and car buffs? So far, it's a mixed picture. Bangle's early designs, in particular the bulky 7 Series with its "side-hinged" boot lid, is still bitterly criticised as awkward. The iDrive mouse-driven interior controls have been dismissed as fiddly. But the Z4 roadster, the 5 Series and the 6 Series Grand Tourer are beginning to attract grudging praise and are selling well. There is a six- to nine-month waiting list for the Z4, while the 6 Series, to be released in March, has sold out for the whole year.

    But Bangle still gets hate mail by the truck load. Does it bother him? He shakes his head and says he'd be worried if he didn't attract criticism.

    "When you plan as far ahead as we in the car business have to, you have to be three jumps ahead of everybody else. Sure, that means you going to shock people. Sure, it can take a long time to get our message across. But the more new models we release, the more people appreciate what we're doing. People see the Z4 and they say to me: 'Now I understand the 7 Series much better.'

    "We want, we need, to get away from this idea that BMW is only a safe, limited little thing. We want cars that recreate emotional connection to passionate artwork. I don't want a ceiling painted white, any more than I want a metal box car. I want a Sistine Chapel, damn it! I want to know that somewhere we have a Michelangelo among us. Wouldn't it be great if he was in our team and BMW were the ones that did that?"
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  3. need4speed

    need4speed Formula 3

    Nov 3, 2003
    Pacific Palisades
    I met Chris Bangle back in the early 90s when he was at Fiat. He seemed to be a reflective person. Very thoughtful. I took a live drawing class with him on one of the evenings at Fiat and I could tell that he definitely had other things on his mind.

    I personally like the direction that BMW is going. And if anyone hasn't noticed, one of the Honda's front fender design is very similar to the new 5 series. Is BMW design catching on?

    I like the concept of splines. It gives automotive form a new look. Splines, or bone lines, have been used but not in this manner. I like the fresh thinking.
  4. SefacHotRodder

    SefacHotRodder F1 World Champ

    Dec 20, 2003
    Full Name:
    this is wierd. I just went golfing and was going to make a thread about this. I saw the X3 at the course and boy, that thing is HIDEOUS. There also appears to less room than my sebring in the back. Everything up to around 1999 was good for BMW. But the ultimate, the E30 M3 is long gone. :(
  5. alanhenson

    alanhenson Formula 3

    Dec 2, 2003
    I hate the new 5 and the Z4. Can tolerate the 7 and absolutely love the new 6. I own the m3 and that is beauty. Everytime I see one going down the road, I watch it. It's a mixed bag, but I think overall they are ugly. The new 6 may have gotten it right. Unfrotunately there are a few car makers that everyone follows in styling there own cars, ie Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes. This is a scary thing because they may follow BMW. If you are a member of you would see that alot of those guys really hate the designs also.
  6. mozi

    mozi Rookie

    Jan 24, 2004
    Bay Area, CA
    Full Name:
    Personally, I really like the design on the new 5 and 6 series and like how the lines flow smoothly. Although the 7 still seems awkward to me and I never was a fan of the shark-like Z4 design.

    It seems like more car companies are moving in this design direction. The new Acura RL prototype seems to have some design cues of the 5 as well, here are some pics...

    On a side note, I am impressed with the new RL. Looks nice, has the new Super-Handling AWD system, and 300 hp. A big improvement from the current design.
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  8. AJS328

    AJS328 F1 Veteran

    Apr 23, 2003
    New Jersey
    Full Name:
    Augustine Staino
    I loved it and now I hate it. :(
  9. SefacHotRodder

    SefacHotRodder F1 World Champ

    Dec 20, 2003
    Full Name:
    Yeah they do.
  10. JaguarXJ6

    JaguarXJ6 F1 Veteran

    Feb 12, 2003
    Black Hawk, CO
    Full Name:
    The new designs besides the Z look more like the competition... brilliant.

    Great vision, too bad it was BMW that suffered.

  11. PSk

    PSk F1 World Champ

    Nov 20, 2002
    Tauranga, NZ
    Full Name:
    I like the 5 and 6 series, 7 series is too much, and the Z4 needed something so do not mind that.

    I think the 3 series will be interesting.

    I think the Japanese manufacturers are coming out with some real nice clean looking cars now, now that they have got over having to clutter cars with unnecessary crap ;)

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  13. smg2

    smg2 F1 World Champ

    Apr 1, 2004
    Dumpster Fire #31
    Full Name:
    i'd like to know where they got their Z4 info, becouse most all the lots here have many unsold with "money in the trunk".
  14. Jordan Ross

    Jordan Ross Formula Junior

    Nov 4, 2003
    I absolutley HATE the bangle-era designs! I want to know the name and street adress of that designer-pal of bangle. I mean, is that guy taking showers in LSD? ****!
    The Z4, while a big improvement over the Z3, is hideous. Ive seen a few on the road and wanted to look away quickly but...couldnt...sort of like when one passes an accident and feels the need to watch the scene, looking for carnage. "What happened HERE?"

    The 7, when it debuted I did not mind its look, but neither did I pay much attention to it. Once I got to see more than the initial press shots my stomach started to turn. In the Flesh it is OK to look at, but next to the Benz S (which I also find ugly) the Benz is a swan. Maybe Ill get used to it more with the coming restyle (which appears to have similar headlights to the 5).

    The 5? Bangles freind has killed one of the most restrained and well-proportioned cars of modern times. That is about all I have to say about that.

    Ah, and the 1. In shape it looks like the 3, but in detail it looks like...well...not much else. I really hate this one, but it supposedly is not coming to the US, so I wont have to look at it.

    I sincerely hope that this guy is ousted soon, for the 3's sake.

    Oh, and be the shots that I have seen of the 3 wagon, it seems that BMW has realised that Ugly cars do not sell well.
  15. branko

    branko F1 Rookie

    Mar 17, 2003
    Birmingham, Alabama
    Full Name:
    Branko Medenica
    I really like the design of the Z4. The sculptural aesthetics of this car is a departure from the past....... a very much needed departure. The car is super.
  16. Agent Smith

    Agent Smith Formula 3

    Apr 20, 2002
    The new designs are hideous - with the possible exception of the 6 series. But even the insides look cheap. There is nothing in their line now that I would buy short of a 3 series. If that gets Bangle-ized, then there will be nothing left.
  17. Prugna 328

    Prugna 328 Formula 3

    Sep 10, 2003
    Full Name:
    Old 7, love it. New 7, hate it.
    Old 5, love it. New 5, hate it.
    I'm just hope they don't destroy the 3.
  18. ClassicFerrari

    ClassicFerrari F1 World Champ
    Lifetime Rossa

    Jan 7, 2004
    Full Name:
    I hate em' all. Actually the new 6 Coupe is kinda cool. But give me an old-school eurospec M6 and I won't look back babay.


  19. Aureus

    Aureus Formula 3

    I like the Z4. The new 7 has grown on me somewhat, the 5 seems to be a bit more acceptable than the 7. Either way I wish they were still making the old 7 and 5. There was just no reason to do what he did to the designs.
  20. Admiral Thrawn

    Admiral Thrawn F1 Rookie

    Jul 2, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Full Name:
    I think the old E38 7 series and current W220 S-class are the nicest looking luxury sedans in the world.

    I also think the current 5 and 7 series cars are hideous.
  21. ross

    ross Three Time F1 World Champ
    Silver Subscribed Owner

    Mar 25, 2002
    Full Name:
    i don't mind the 'pushing of the design envelope' shtick, but not when the ultimate result looks like a crumpled envelope....

    lets face it, the 7 series is just butt ugly. the other designs have some interesting elements, but i think they have toned things down since the 7 got so much flack. bmw sales may be strong, but its not with any of my help.
  22. bubba

    bubba Formula 3

    May 8, 2002
    Hong Kong
    Full Name:
    Love the old 7-series and 3-series. Old 5-series is OK, but still better than the new one.

    The current 3-series is the only ones I would consider when buying a new bimmer. Can't picture myself owning any of the Bangle designs.
  23. Onlinesys

    Onlinesys Formula Junior

    May 1, 2002
    Hong Kong
    I admit the 5 and 7 are good cars in terms of performance, handling and all the new and improved technology implemented but the EXTERIORs are SUCKKKKKKKK!!! 7 is the worst and 5 and 6 are a bit better (comparatively speaking). Z4 is as bad as the Z3 and the mid-tail light/spoiler is just a copy of the 550.

    I still love my existing E38 750iL!
  24. kizdan

    kizdan F1 Veteran

    Dec 31, 2003
    Full Name:
    When the latest 7-series dubuted, I thought it was quite offensive, a total screw-up. Today, it is not quite as offensive as it was at first, but it is still the least attractive car in it's class.

    I think that they did a better job on the 5-series. It is not quite as radical as the 7-series, and is acceptable. I don't think anyone would describe it as being beautiful though.

    With the Z4; I love the aggressive looking back end of it, can't stand the front of it.

    The new 645 is nice looking, and indeed different, however I don't think it carries the baton from the 635 as gracefully. At least it is not offensive from any angle, IMO.

    I think Bangle's design philosophy can work if he tones it down, like he did for the 5-series.
  25. Auraraptor

    Auraraptor F1 World Champ
    Lifetime Rossa Owner

    Sep 25, 2002
    The new 6 is the best he has been able to come up with...and though good, it doesn't look as good as the SL.

    Now this is coming from an avid BMW fan and owner of the last 7 series (750iL) and of the original 6 series (633CSi). You can imagine I wished the 6 was more so then it is. Maybe if they fix that trunk.

    The 4 dr 6 is pretty damn cool IMO, btw.
  26. LA Swede

    LA Swede Formula Junior

    Dec 5, 2003
    7 series could be the shameful retarded bastard child of Toyta/Lexus (most U.S. Lexus cars are sold as Toyotas in Japan, I think Lexus was only introduced last year in JPN. The Toyota Aristo is one of the 60K-70K Lexus cars we have here in the U.S.) The rear trunk is just b.f. ugly.

    Z4, horrible ugly front. not a pretty car by any means. Z3 looks like a beauty next to it. Z3 is a chick car, Z4 is an ugly-chick car.

    5 Series, this one is the least offensive of the bunch. it could be a Pontiac or a Japanese car by the looks of it. I don't think it is horrible, that is the nicest thing I will say about any Bangle design.

    6 series, why the hell would anyone copy the rear trunk lid from a Chrysler Cirrus or Stratus? The rest of the car looks ok, not vomit-inducingly ugly, but why the hell would you put that abomination of a trunk on the car?

    Btw, Bangle is no longer designing, he is head of design or something. Good news for BMW, he won't ruin their cars anymore.
  27. LA Swede

    LA Swede Formula Junior

    Dec 5, 2003
    X3, I forgot this useless "devolution" of the X5. the X5 was a great looking car, and I have an MB ML and still think the X5 looks better in most aspects.

    the X5 is small inside, the X3 must be for midgets and children drivers. maybe monkeys. X3 is the uglified bangle version of the X5. I have seen one or two on the road here in CA, don't expect it to sell well at the price. It is too small, way too ugly and too expensive.
  28. ferrari_kid

    ferrari_kid Formula Junior

    Jul 5, 2003
    #25 ferrari_kid, Apr 8, 2004
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    I hated the 7-series, thought it was horrendous. It looks like they've been more subtle as the design trickled down through the series. I think the 5 is less than the 7, but I don't like those long drawn out headlights. The '04 3-series, on the other hand, looks great. It still keeps those classic BMW lines.

    I've always felt cars should be designed to reflect perfomance. Needless plastic parts and tons of fake aero pieces don't look good.

    I couldn't believe they built an X3. When we looked at the X5 there was already lack of cargo space in the back, I'm sure the X3 is worst. Theres rumor of an X1 too, or a 1 or 2 series car. It looks like BMW is just flooding the market now and soon all you'll see are wannabe BMW owners driving a 2-series car. It's obvious those are just to make money and it takes away from the other luxury cars.
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