Domagoj Dukec, 38, the new head of Exterior Design, was born in Frankfurt and has worked in the Exterior Design BMW Automobiles team since 2010. He was responsible for designing the Concept Active Tourer and Concept Vision ConnectedDrive.
1989 Pforzheim graduate previously worked for Volkswagen and Citroën and was part of the design team responsible for the Citroën C4 coupé, C5 Airscape, C5 (Mark II), Hypnos and GQ Concept.
Since August 1, 2013, Domagoj Dukec has taken over as head of Exterior Design.
In the interview below, Dukoc shared with us some of the upcoming BMW design trends, as well as future BMW front-wheel drive models.
BMWBLOG: Where is BMW exterior design heading towards?
Domagoj Dukec: This is a big question. To make desirable and emotional design. BMW is a brand that stands for dynamics, it’s a premium brand, but offers probably the most dynamic cars, compared to our competitors.
Of course that all the others are doing well and trying to do everything to communicate sportiness, while we try to concentrate also on different segments, especially with the BMW i3, mobile efficiency. But I think that this is just about the sustainability that we have to show, because if you go to any markets, such as U.S., Middle East, everybody knows the image is so dynamic, like BMW M. It’s the most dynamic company. This is what we want also, especially with the mother brand, BMW, to come back being ore dynamic, but without being aggressive.
We know that young customers today are not like twenty years ago; they don’t like it if the cars are too aggressive. We get feedback on this, so now it’s about finding the form language which offers the precision – which is also very important.
I think that we, at BMW, can make design that is also easy to produce. We have to be clever in design. If you see other competitors which are really good in quality, that’s not just because they are able to do it, actually we are probably more able to do it, but if you do a bodyside like we have on some cars, you can’t achieve the same radiaus.
We were also asking ourselves in the past: What is more important? Is it form language, being emotional? Others go more on simple sections, and therefore can do 2mm shutlines easier. We can’t have both, neither can the others. So the question is – what should we do?
We try also to develop form language in a direction where we could also offer both: the emotion and new materials (aluminium, carbon, mix of materials). It’s more difficult when you deal with a mix of materials, because metal has certain qualities- to bend, aluminium-less, and carbon – very different. When you have to make one car, the structure of materials is always changing because it depends on the kind of products: sometimes the roof is in carbon, sometimes the door is.
It’s also about driving performance. And there you also have the design and you need to be prepared to develop a form language which makes it possible to have clearly – not visible for the customer – a very expressive design, but of course, assuring in the same time a high quality in design.
That’s our biggest goal, to get a mixture between very emotional and very individual design, without being bizarre. To really try to find the main character of the car, but also to help the production, to make it nice and rich.
BMWBLOG: With your experience in front-wheel drive, what should we expect from BMW design?
Domagoj Dukec: I know that this was one of the reasons I joined BMW – because of my 10-12 years front-wheel drive experience at Volkswagen and Citroen, where I was Creative Director for three years for the whole front-wheel cars, and all the FWD cars that will come out now and in the next years were under my direction.
I think it helped the company because I know that people in the company were very scared about it, the customers also. It was very challenging, and I liked it, especially being the underdog and since nobody expects anything.
So I started at BMW to do rear-wheel drive cars, like the 7 Series for example, but after I started my job I was told that I am going to do a FWD car, because that was the reason that I was brought to BMW.
So it was a great design challenge, because with the 7 Series – the expectation is always the same – it has to be nice, to have short overhangs, etc.
But the front-wheel drive market is different. You can’t go with the same values as for the 7 Series. It’s a different segment, where you have to reach also people that maybe haven’t got a BMW on the radar yet.
The BMW Active Tourer Outdoor Concept in orange is even more special that the previous Active Tourer shown in Paris. This special color also shows the sculpture, the sensitivity of the materials. On a small car you can’t get this feeling of desirable product. That’s why we try to put a lot of focus in details to show BMW clients or other customers that if you reduce the scale, it doesn’t mean you get less. Actually you get the same premium, just in small version.
People who will drive the Active Tourer are not poor people, they’re just people who think different and are probably more progressive, intellectual. This car will be probably be driven by 60-year old people who had already everything, they don’t need status, they had their Porsche, their 7 Series, and at a certain time you need just a practical car, but you still want the most dynamic in the segment. And that’s what this car will offer.
Compared to the cars in the segment, it proved to be the most dynamic. Of course that you don’t compare it with an M4, but I think it’s an attractive car.
Same applies to the next BMW X1 which will be a FWD car. I think this will be a fantastic car because the front wheel proportions is actually better for off-road, because on the X1 today, the bonnet is so long and somehow the proportions are not really offroad. On an offroad car you actually have a shorter bonnet. The X1 looks actually looks like an X5 in terms of proportions.
Therefore I think that the products to come will be very important for BMW, especially because they will sell in high numbers and will be money makers.
BMWBLOG: If you were to name three biggest challenges in designing front-wheel cars, what would they be?
Domagoj Dukec: At first the most challenging is that the height – the engine- is not transversal, and that means that because it’s in front of the front axle, not behind, and you have 60 mm of pedestrian protection, so the engine comes further to the front, the bonnet is always higher.
The same with the suspension – it has to go to the outside and be more upright.
If you compare cars visually – RWD vs FWD – you will always see the mass over the front wheel – the bonnet is higher, and because you have the engine so far on the front, everything gets longer, and because you are so high, you add a lot of mass.
Once you have the mass in the front, you want some edge on the car, it’s even higher on the back. Then you have to put the people higher, because they have to look over the bonnet, so everything goes higher, but actually you are on a small segment where you have small wheels, and then you have a problem. You have the proportions, which are not so easy to handle: small wheels and a lot of mass, also the need to sculpt the wheel arches to reduce it then visually.
That’s the biggest challenge, not just for us at BMW, but for eveyone. On the BMW i3 you see the wheels are very big, but they are thin, but it’s high technology, it’s expensive.
BMWBLOG: What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned from the Vision ConnectedDrive Concept? Is there something that you’re going to apply in the production cars?
Domagoj Dukec: I wouldn’t say so, because this car was meant to communicate on design on our future form language. At this point it was really just important to communicate ConnectedDrive. And that was very challenging for exterior design, because the brief was not to make the exterior too loud.
In the beginning there was a plan to make only something for the interior, but Adrian Van Hooydonk said “if you show something, it has to be a car, because on the frontpage it wil always be just a car, not an interior”. And that’s true. It was challenging to make it attractive, at least recognizable as a BMW, unmistakenly BMW, but not too communicative.
And it was also a form language, we chose very simple sketches where it was very expressive, one line which shows the dynamic, and we added double headlights, shark nose, etc. So everything is quite unmistakable, even some features, but it was not meant to communicate on our future design. Even my goal now is to make cars simpler, to reduce it. Of course that ConnectedDrive was very reduced and the feedback was very nice and good.
BMW has the strenght in image and character. You have a front mask that many companies want to have – either the Mercedes grille or a kidney grille – there are some front-ends that put on a car, already promise something. And you have to be proud of this. You have something. A lot of people copy things because they have to find the identity – we have them already, so we don’t have to do more, we have actually to do less, to really sculpt the character.
We also have a great package, the proportions are already there, on all the rear-wheel drive. I see BMW in the future more reduced, just with nice sculpture and with precision and details.
BMWBLOG: Which car in the current line-up was designed under your direction?
Domagoj Dukec: The BMW 5 Series facelift and the 5 GT, then BMW X4 which was shown as Concept and will be also launched in production. Next cars: Active Tourer, X1, etc.
BMWBLOG: What’s the idea behind the BMW X4? Is it just a small X6? How do you envision the car to be positioned, from a design standpoint?
Domagoj Dukec: BMW X6 is a one and only product on the market and quite controversial. Some people want to be expressive and love this car, some others just hate it. There’s probably no other car that people hated or loved so much. But the car is still very successful, selling very well, and you can see that people like it.
BMW X4 is more in the middle range, more affordable, probably less-polarizing, with the same recipe, a coupe.
The people who drive the BMW X3 today don’t necessarily have a family. It’s not a car you want just for space, you want an off-roader, an SUV character and you don’t go necessarily for an X5, instead you go for X3. But also it could be more avant-garde, because people in the X4 will still have the luggage space, people could ride in the back, but it’s probably what a lot of people in the mid 30-40s will rather take this one than an upright box.
The thing is to take the same recipe and the success of the X6 and to start with the X4 before our customers start with the competitors of the X6.
BMWBLOG: Domagoj, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today!