BMWBLOG had the opportunity to sit down with Adrian van Hooydonk during the Rolex 24 at Daytona, hot on the new BMW M3 CS release and a look at the BMW M Hybrid V8 in action. After our recent interview at CES, we talked a little bit more about where BMW design is headed, why a BMW pickup truck is still only a remote possibility and more.

BMW M Design

Designing BMW M cars starts with the racetrack. As Adrian noted, the car needs to stick out – even at night – and blend the best of BMW icons into the design. And lessons learned while designing the race car will, as always, make it into production vehicles. But not just the functional ones. “You know that from 2025…we are going to start you could almost say a new chapter in our whole design history,” he says.

Many more concept vehicles are promised to come with “new forms,” new drivetrains, and increased digitalization. All of these will follow in the i Vision Dee’s footsteps but use flicks, spoilers, and other cues designed to optimize aerodynamics from the race cars. “The sum total will be more BMW than ever before…closer to its roots than perhaps has ever been,” he continues, “and the fact that we’re racing here again, means that we haven’t forgotten that.”

The BMW Design Process

BMW Design - Designworks

We asked Adrian van Hooydonk how he approached new designs. “Every production car needs to become a winner. That’s basically what is expected of us,” he says. Training for new employees occurs typically in the Designworks studios in Los Angeles or Shanghai. They are given a loose set of guidelines and instructed, “Surprise me. Show us something that we’re not already doing.”

Then, at the end of the year, he gets a presentation from Designworks, showing cars that were never asked of them. “If they identify a hole in our lineup or an opportunity, and then they can propose a complete car and show up with a complete model in Munich…the real project kicks off, of course, the clock is already ticking, and your budget counter is running. So, then it becomes a little bit more serious.” I take it that this means the pickup truck is still on the table. Which reminds me…

Extending The Life Cycle of a BMW

BMW is known for their 3-4 years cycle before a refresh comes to market. Most of their life cycle impulses – fancy phase for a facelift – are very mild and mostly tech focused. But once in a while, a more drastic styling change comes around, usually with one goal in mind – to market the car to new buyers.

In the future, that might change. The company is pushing ahead with their global goals of sustainability and social responsibilities, and those could influence the design decisions as well. “Right now, doing a facelift is actually also a three year process, says Van Hooydonk. “It involves a lot of new tooling. So that means that we basically have to start doing the facelift just as the as the car hits the market. Which is also not that easy to do, added the design boss.

“But we definitely are looking at trying to extend our life cycles. We are also looking at using fewer parts or in our drive for more sustainability. So what we’re trying to do one day is circularity and that you could also mean changing the look and feel of the car via over the air updates, for example.” Van Hooydonk made a reference to the BMW i Vision Dee which comes with the e ink technology allowing to digitally change the design of the car.

What’s This About a BMW Pickup Truck…?

BMW Pickup

With the Audi Activesphere concept previewing not only augmented reality (an area that BMW design has heavily leaned into) but an interesting pickup truck bed, we asked Adrian’s if it’s the perfect time for a BMW pickup. We cited the BMW X5 as evidence of the possibility – no one ever thought a BMW SUV would happen, either. Plus, there’s a newly captive audience thanks to the efforts of Rivian and the Tesla Cybertruck hype machine.

“It’s not an obvious fit for the BMW brand. We don’t have to go after every trend that is happening,” Adrian commented. “If we go into a segment then we want to go in there for the long haul.” “Also, we don’t have to go after every trend that is happening. What I do see and find interesting is that during COVID, we saw a trend for people who want to spend time outdoors.”

Van Hooydonk also says that typically he is not looking at what other brands are doing because when you do that, they are already three years behind. “But what’s interesting is that the pickup truck is becoming more sophisticated. The electric drivetrains are coming in. Of course, the prices are going way up. They have also become more refined.”

“So those are all interesting developments. But not necessary for us to go and jump in that thing right away. Because of course it has to also be somewhat believable, authentic also to the BMW brand. ” With the BMW XM entering uncharted lands this year, they’ll watch how it sells to see how it fares in new territory.

But it wasn’t an outright no.