BMWBLOG was fortunate enough to get a bit of an inside scoop with Adrian van Hooydonk at CES this year. In an interview with the BMW Group Head of Design, we went over the new BMW i Vision Dee, the future of physical buttons, coachbuilt projects and much more. We start the interview going over the recently-revealed BMW i Vision Dee which is largely modeled after the future of BMW design.
“[Dee is] preparing the road for our customers starting in the year 2025,” Van Hooydonk told us. The chief designer says that focuses include electric mobility, sustainability/circularity, and a digital aspect (elsewhere described as “digitalization”). With CES representing technology, the talk today is, of course, primarily on digitalization. But there were also other important comments on design, styling, and sustainability.
Digitalization in the i Vision Dee
One of the biggest debates currently raging in the automotive world involves physical switches. How many should there be, what should they do, and more. Van Hooydonk is aware of some of the automotive world’s gripes and isn’t concerned. Reducing switches isn’t a problem, thanks to vast improvements to AI and voice commands. Plus, Van Hooydonk says that they will further increase the human component – making driving a BMW a more emotional and involving experience.
Misguided claims that switch removal is a direct result of cost-cutting aren’t quite accurate, either. R&D costs make it a near zero-sum game, and it’s also another component of BMW’s desire to increase the recyclability of their cars (which the BMW i3 did great with about a decade ago). Regarding AI, van Hooydonk shared the following nugget: “It is not about how big is your display, or how many megabytes or pixels or, you know, how much programming was necessary to make the car clever. It is really about how can you really make it a companion, something that people trust and that they can work with in a very seamless way.” While the i Vision Dee contains a lot of technology that won’t see production anytime soon, he also insists that it is “full of ideas that we are actually quite serious about.”
One of those ideas that could be closer to reality than not is the crazy e Ink paint scheme. BMW has found that this color-changing paint doesn’t consume much energy, making it technically viable for future production. It’s a great example of how much faster things are moving today – another point he brought up regarding the rapid introduction of Neue Klasse vehicles. BMW is amid the biggest phase shift he’s ever seen in his three decades of service with the automaker. What used to take ten years or more is now doable and happening in less than half that time. “So it’s like instant – you dream it, you visualize, you build it…nobody wants to see concepts that perhaps in ten years maybe will influence my life anymore, ” Van Hooydonk said. “It has to happen faster.”
Styling of the i Vision Dee
Van Hooydonk stresses that the i Vision Dee is representative of BMW’s progressive styling, but it’s also drastically oversimplified. It’s intentionally reduced to the basics, especially on the inside – where Adrian says it draws on minimalist interiors from the BMW cars from the 1970s. On the outside, it’s an ultimate evolution of styling that the i3 and i8 paved the way for with their reductive body lines when BMW i was conceived.
He also notes that the radical design looks like it “skipped a generation,” which is an accurate synopsis. This ties into what he said regarding the rapid change. “The world is changing faster and faster,” he said. “Some things that, years ago, one could dream of, or you could see it in a sci-fi movie, now become very close, become real. And some of that you’ll see tonight as well,” he continues, referencing the upcoming i Vision Dee exhibit.
We can’t have the styling conversation without talking about grilles. We gleaned two pieces of insight from Adrian van Hooydonk’s words. The first: more grille changes are on the way. He says that the grille is tailored to each vehicle – citing the big and vertical grilles on the X7 and the gaping air intakes on the front of the M3 and M4, providing performance benefits.
When asked whether he would do things differently after seeing the feedback on the new grille style, he had insight to share. “We knew that people were going to be talking because of course we know when we’re making a change,” he said. “We also know that getting people talking is not necessarily bad. What would be bad is if people would talk but not buy. But they talk and buy, so then you’re still on the right side.”
Future Coachbuilt Projects
The new BMW 3.0 CSL was a dream project for the chief designer. Van Hooydonk says that he hoped for such a project for a long time. And now that the door was opened, he’s looking forward to potentially working on other coachbuilt projects. “I think you know that I’ve been dreaming of this low volume production for BMW forever, Van Hooydonk told BMWBLOG.
“With so many concept vehicles at Villa d’Este, [we] had that in the back of our mind. And in several cases, we’ve tried and then didn’t get it together. And then by lucky coincidence, few people looked again at this 3.0 CSL Hommage and said, this one, we should really do. Then last year with 50 year anniversary of BMW M seemed like the perfect occasion. And then let’s say the sun the moon, the stars aligned and we found the slot and we did so it was a dream come true.”
Van Hooydonk emphasizes again that the future of coachbuilt projects could be electric as well. “And I won’t give up now, now that we’ve managed it once. I would like that to continue. And that could be on all sorts of basis could also be on an EV base.”