Chris Bangle Thinks Today’s Car Designs Are Banal

Former BMW design chief Chris Bangle had plenty of things to say regarding car design while visiting this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

In an interview with Autonews, the 60-year old stated that most of today’s car designs aren’t pushing the envelope as much as they should.

“It’s a wonderful stand, it has a wonderful amount of technology they are showing,” said Bangle while referring to the stand of a former competitor. “But as a designer I am used to a set of uniqueness and freshness and change. This will turn into a critique of [insert brand name] and I really don’t want it to be published like that, but for the life of me I can’t find a new idea.  They have really good designers, but I’ve seen this all before in other places.”

While his criticism may not be aimed at a particular automaker, the way he feels about the entire industry in general is pretty obvious.

“Companies like that are getting so good at putting a sheen on what you already know that they’ll convince everybody that it’s new. And the young designers don’t know their own history. There is very little understanding where the past came from for car designers today because they are worried so much about just learning the tools. They’re being asked to do little more than just ‘ give me a little twist on what we just did.’ “

It’s quite interesting to speculate which particular brand he was referring to initially. A direct BMW competitor, well, that could be anybody from Mercedes to Audi, Volvo, Jaguar and so on. Yet, in his eyes, the entire industry is in a rut.

“If it’s left up to these hyper-conservative, hyper-terrified companies that are so huge, and where everything is resting on a bottom line that could go south at any minute…well, these are the last people to ask for the courage to go forward into the future. The LAST people.”

“They defend their brands like the virtue of Guinevere and they are doing it by putting a chastity belt around the girl and, sorry, that’s not how you make kids. That’s not how you make a future.”

Bangle himself is working on a new project for an industry start-up, yet he won’t reveal much about his current work, not yet anyway.

“I can’t tell you really anything about it. It’s an existing company that comes from a manufacturing point of view – not an automaker. They understand hardware and electric vehicles very well, but they’ve never forayed into the automotive world. They came to us a couple of years ago and said, ‘we want to do a small car,’ and I said, ‘ why don’t you go up the street. Pininfarina is up the street. They’d love to do that for you’ and these guys said, ‘No we want to do it with you.”

As for when we’ll finally see what the former BMW design boss has been working on, his answer was “much sooner than later.”

PHOTO GALLERY

  • Craig

    I would argue that Lexus is pushing the envelope. That said… I don’t recall any of his designs being all that daring or praiseworthy. Influential [i.e. ‘Bangle Butt’] but not praise worthy.

    • Mynameis Taylor

      Bangle was greatly influenced. Almost all of them took reference to his designs

    • Mark S

      I see a lot of Bangle influence in Lexus..

      • benT

        Bangalore !!

    • benT

      It (Lexus) IS the envelop with a mouth THAT BIG!!
      Tries too hard to be an Audi.

    • Vassilis

      Looks are subjective but I think most of his cars were prettier than what BMW makes now.

    • enthusia

      I still see traces of his design in current BMWs, both inside and out. Especially when I think about how dramatic the change in design was from the generation before Bangle, BMW has struggled to find it’s own identity after he left. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but looking at the current line up of BMWs makes me greatly miss his designs.

    • alexxx

      The key words “you don’t recall”

    • Maxime01

      If we’re talking ”concept cars” here, certainly Bangle had pretty daring and influencial cars under his belt, as the Gina for instance. Thay may not have been consensual in any way (remember the fights people had over the 7 series rear-end), but at least they would create a hate or love reaction… and packed novelty into it, not just aesthetic and design language but glimpses of technologies would show through. He took BMW into a direction they never would have in the past, and from which they seem to try to diverge from again, coming back into a more sedated/banal design to please more people (who could blame them? they do please me a lot, more than Bangle’s), even in their concept vehicles (except maybe for the i brand?), which are again more of a preview of the next production cars than ”real” concept cars.

  • klowik

    I think he means Audi. Audi has not changed the styling much since last 2 generations and all their models looks pretty much the same.

    • alexxx

      2 generations ?!?! Hahahahaha… you probably meant 20 years

      • c3vzn

        They’ve changed massively in the last 20 years…

  • Jp

    When you think of how this guy managed to convince a luxury, traditionally conservative car manufacturer to put his crazy ideas into production in this early 2000s, I think he deserves some respect. Sure, there are a few controversial ones… (*ahem E65 *ahem*) But still, I miss him. Especially, this design masterpiece from 2003, that still looks contemporary, unlike most luxury roadsters of that time:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4bba9e3bfb63f3e87124894ae655732a85d6d479a60c8eb32ca214913406134d.jpg

    • TheBelltower

      Seriously? A “masterpiece?”

      • LeStori

        Certainly has not matured with age. Still looks ordinary to me. But then most BMWs seemed rather ordinary once Chris Bangles ‘bangled’ them.

        • TheBelltower

          Bangle’s designs are completely disjointed. It takes a high level of ineptitude to design a small roadster that’s so lumpy and pieced-together looking.

      • Vassilis

        Absolutely. That Z4 is still a stunning car. The Coupe even more.

    • Archie Miller

      I love the E60 personally.

    • Six_Tymes

      its still an awful eye sore.

  • ErnieB

    Wait.. I think Volvo pushed the envelope (or box) you know.. boxy Volvo is no longer boxy.. must be talking about boring old Audi..

    • Mark S

      That is now not then, Volvo merely changed and pushed their own envelope again.

    • steve

      Certainly the Audi saloon range is very boring.

  • Apparently he still does not realise why he was kicked out. Not just from BMW but from the whole automotive industry.

    • Mark S

      Not to mention Bangle is the guy who put BMW back on the map to begin with….

      • nastinupe

        I disagree. People consider the generation before he came as the “classic” cars for BMW. Once he came that all changed. I believe that he gave BMW their current direction but BMW is definitely not in their heyday. Their heyday was the pre-Bangle era.

    • Thomas

      Why?

  • Mark S

    Love you Chris Bangle! Auto designers are still heavily influenced from your designs. Even the Great BMW has not strayed to far from your designs that brought them to what they now squander. You will go down as one of the greats!

    • Knotmyrealname

      two words: Fiat Coupe.

  • An Existing Person

    His designs were very controversial. I wasn’t fond about most of them, but at least they were distinct from anything out there at that time.

  • RS6 Performance Wagon Lover

    I wonder about his opinion on the Genesis G70.

    • steve

      Generic and bland, probably!

      • Thomas

        Only if he were benevolent.

    • Thomas

      He would probably say that it tries to copy traces and references from various competitors and makes it a terrible mixture, without proportions, with wrong volumes, using grotesque solutions to make some quotations. In short: an aggression to reason and good taste.

  • steve

    You only need to look at the likes of the X7 concept, Genesis G70 etc. to know that Chris is spot on with his comments. There are far too many generic designs that borrow heavily from other manufacturers being launched as “new” models or concepts.

  • Zimny Pawel

    Chris have you ever seen Peugeot 308, 3008, 5008 ? :}

  • benT

    I think he is correct however I DO LIKE the new Volvo range – particularly the V90 wagon X-Country

    • Cross Country. Just V90 Cross Country. V90 can only be a Wagon.

  • Thomas

    The world of car design is in a rush of opulence, excess and futility seeking to cater to the (bad and poorly formed) tastes of the new rich middle-eastern and Chinese. Nothing good can come of it.

  • Thomas

    The only brands I see with any boldness and inspiration are Alfa Romeo and Volvo. Even the Maseratis, despite their well-proportioned presence and refinement in drawing, end up getting lost in excesses and very Asian traits. Some Renaults try to innovate and put into production new ideas, a courage I admire, but the result is quite irregular.

  • Marty

    Yes, Bangle pushed the envelope with his concave surfaces (actually made possible by new manufacturing techniques), but his designs as a whole were quite horrible. It wasn’t until other brands used some of his ideas that they resulted in any good designs.

  • Agreed

    I totally agree if his comments are directed solely toward German car designers. Some of the Audi facelifts I’ve seen in the past are a complete joke! So much so, I have no interest in those cars anymore!

  • Smith

    And this from the guy who thought “a new idea” was to design one of the ugliest rear ends of any car brand ever produced.

    • “HONEY DOES THIS MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG?”
      SADLY, NO WAS HIS ANSWER.

  • Eduardo Palandi

    I don’t like most of the BMW designs of the Bangle days (exceptions: first-gen Z4, E46, Z8) but I have to say Mr. Bangle’s comment is spot on.

  • Gerald Michael

    While Chris Bangle should have chosen another profession, he is correct. Not only are most car designs banal, they’re also painfully derivative.

  • yes is true !!

  • S3XY

    Chris Banal.

  • Jerry Hightower

    He’s right, there is no true imagination anymore in auto design. Even the plastic super duper cars are all looking alike. Now the regular family cars are trying to imitate the super cars and doing a good job of failing at that.

  • Miknik

    In my eyes, many Bangle BMWs look more modern and futuristic even today than their successors, or even the successor of the successor. Whilst probably not every detail of his deisgns was classically beautiful, he really had an “out of the box thinking” in many ways, and so many of his designs were copied/re-interpreted/influential on others, you have to respect that.

    And yes, i agree with him, nowadays every designer seems to be afraid of trying something new….

  • Igor Brezovic

    What exceptional Bangle actually did for BMW? You cannot mention him in the same sentence with Kamm, Von Goertz, Falkenhausen and Bracq ! That guy is on serious ego-trip since Fiat Coupe. Which is “special” but not even close to design master class

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