Business Week on Bangle\’s Departure

Business Week has some great insight into the why, the hows of Chris Bangle ‘s departure from BMW. For one the rumors that Bangle was forced out appear to be wrong. Here ‘s an excerpt:

His exit, say people familiar with the company, was not forced. Rather, said the same executives, the designer had been laying groundwork for an exit for many months.

The article also goes into some detail into Bangle ‘s original marching orders and the success and criticism that followed:

When Bangle was hired at BMW, the company was embarking on a mission to shake up its design footprint. “We were making sausages at different lengths, and management at that time, especially chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim and technical director Wolfgang Reitzle, felt we needed to break away and chart a new course for the company and the brand…we were going to be introducing SUVs and new sports cars and we needed a design language in which to do it,” Bangle said in an interview with me for a book I wrote in 2004, “Driven: Inside BMW, The Most Admired Car Company in the World.”

Bangle oversaw the design of numerous breakout and brand changing designs for the BMW brand and BMW as a company including the 2001 and 2009 7 Series, three generations of 3 Series and 5 Series, BMW’s foray into SUVs, including the X5, X3 and X6, as well as the 1 Series, and the comeback of the 6 Series. He also oversaw the design of BMW’s recent re-do of the MINI Cooper, as well as the MINI Clubman, more so than the design of the original 2000 MINI (ED – this is at odds with our understanding of his involvement in the original R50 MINI). And he led the design of the Rolls Royce Phantom after BMW acquired the iconic British brand.

Automotive journalists have been harsh on several of Bangle’s designs when they have been introduced. But in just about every case, such as the 2001 7 Series and Z4, criticism tempered after a year or two as it became clear that rivals like Toyota, including its Lexus division and Mercedes, were adopting some of Bangle’s design cues and principals to their cars and SUVs.

“We aren’t copying anyone else’s design language, not even our own, and I think that makes some people uncomfortable,” said Bangle in a previous interview with me.

Like the author I do believe that Hooydonk will have a tough act to follow. It ‘s not just that Bangle has set the tone for design at BMW but he has also created a atmosphere that has helped BMW become one of the most talked about companies in the world in regards to design. He has elevated the thought behind the concept and the concept behind the car. In the end, Bangle led BMW through a radical design revolution that was followed by the company ‘s most successful years ever financially. Hardly an easy task when you think about it.

+ Chris Bangle Designs His Own Exit / Business Week

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  • Jeff

    Gabe:

    I’d be interested in hearing more of your thoughts about Bangle’s impact on BMW design. Obviously, it’s popular to dump on Bangle, but in many cases history has been on his side. Frequently, innovators are not greeted warmly and that was certainly the case with Bangle. It will be interesting to see how his designs are viewed in 20 years or so.

    It’s notable that Van Hooydonk had a leading role in most of the projects that have been albatrosses around Bangle’s neck. What can you say about him and the direction he may lead BMW design?

  • DT
  • Ben

    I am not a fan of Van Hooydonk either. Just look at the last Z4. Apparently, having spent time in California hasn’t helped his taste for fashion either: Suit jacket + pink shirt + grey scarf?

  • From what I gather this was not a quick departure and terms he left on were very good. He will in fact be working for BMW until the end of the month and make several US appearances during that time as a BMW employee.

    Interesting how design works just entered the Yacht industry….

    I don’t blame him for leaving now, if I had the success (yes success, he has shaped the image of ALL cars, not just BMW and his mark will continue on for many years still) at one thing, made some money I really think I would want to take a break from it all and relax.

    Like I tell my wife; someday I want to live modestly in Southern Bavaria or return to the Austrian Alps where my great grandfather lived many years ago. I am years away from that but that is the end goal, to grow hops or barely and just live at my own pace and not someone else’s; of course until then I am going to bust my tail and live each moment like it is the last!

    Thank you again Mr. Bangle for all that you have done, some may claim to hate you and your designs but I do not think they realize how you gave the auto industry the push it desperately needed.

    -M

  • I am not a fan of Van Hooydonk either. Just look at the last Z4. Apparently, having spent time in California hasn’t helped his taste for fashion either: Suit jacket + pink shirt + grey scarf?

    It’s all relative. As a design professional the Z4 Coupe is probably one of the most interesting cars of the past ten years (from any auto maker).

    And the ensemble is par for the course for design professionals 🙂

  • Joe

    I don’t know if it’s Bangle’s or Hooydonk’s influence, but I truly like the new Z4 and hope that its design (particularly its front design) strongly influences future 3 series coupe revisions.

  • Parker

    Very well written Michael. This is the truth in every way. As many people hated his designs, its exactly what the current market needed.

    Thank you again Mr. Bangle for all that you have done, some may claim to hate you and your designs but I do not think they realize how you gave the auto industry the push it desperately needed
  • JonPD

    Have to agree with you stating the Z4 Coupe was the best design to date. I still think the blend between the body lines and the mechanicals are incredible. Still likely a direction I will be going since the new E89 is only going to be a soft top. Just have to figure out how to rip that hideously designed side repeater off the car;)

  • Yea, people try to bash the Bangle designs, but I think people need to look at the sales numbers for BMW in the last 10 years to look at the explosion in sales count, mostly the 5 series