The name Chris Bangle is met with mixed reactions among BMW enthusiasts. Some feel that some of his designs ruined many of the BMWs that they loved, such as the E60-generation 5 Series and the E65 7 Series. However, there are also some that feel Bangle’s designs were far ahead of their time and that he was a visionary. The truth, much like everything else, is probably somewhere in between. Bangle made some great looking cars for BMW and some ugly ones. Although, he’s likely going to be most known for the infamous “Bangle Butt” of the E60 5 Series.
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Now that Bangle has been away from BMW for many years, he’s been very busy with several other projects with his own design firm, Chris Bangle Associates. Most of which have not actually been cars, having designed a nursing home in Japan and a Hennessy VSOP package. However, he’s recently gotten back into the car business, having recently penned the REDS EV project. Autocar recently caught up with Bangle to talk about his new projects and life after BMW.
“I decided I had to leave BMW after 15 years – in the end it was 17. Not because I didn’t like BMW but because if I stayed, I knew I was going to change and it was not going to be pretty. Many car design chiefs I’ve known, they all end their careers badly. People get bitter, they hang on tooth and nail to keep control of their creativity.” said Bangle about why he left the Bavarian brand.
Although, Bangle does have some fond memories from working at BMW, especially when he was able to manage a team, which is something he feels is even more rewarding that being the actual person designing the car. “The further away you get from being the physical creator of it and more the manager, the more you’re proud of your team. For example, the Z4 to me was spectacular because it was the first time we had two women [Juliane Blasi and Nadya Arnaout] doing a major sports car for a major production house. I don’t think anyone else has done that in the past 30 years.”
So what’s Bangle up to now? Well, he actually has a few projects going on. Most recently is the aforementioned REDS EV concept, which is an electric and autonomous vehicle designed for the Chinese market that radically changes the way we might look at the automobile. “I am super-proud of this car,” he told Autocar. “This is a big deal to me that we were able to do something which is new to car design.” He also hinted that he’s working on other car projects. “I want to help car design move forward,” he said. “I want it to get out of its preconceived ideas of what it is and what it can be.” Something Bangle feels passionately about, as he feels car design is moving in the wrong direction. “Right now, we are at a crossroads which is going the wrong way. Designers have helped convince the world you will prefer things made by machines rather than people; you will prefer perfection over character. That unfortunately is disenfranchising a huge amount of this planet’s population.”
For better or worse, Chris Bangle will be remembered by BMW enthusiasts for a long time. Maybe he ends up being known for the Bangle Butt or maybe for being a visionary. Either way, it’s good to see Bangle’s design firm is busy and that’s he’s back in the auto industry. His views on design are always fascinating and he does make a great point about “perfection over character” in the automotive world. He may have made some mistakes along the way but I’m sure that most of us would be happy to see Bangle back designing BMWs again. Maybe then we’d get some more emotional designs in Bavaria.