Chris Bangle Retires From the BMW Group

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For students of modern MINI design history today is a big day at BMW. Chris Bangle, the man who championed the original design of Frank Stephenson’s MINI concept and help craft what became the R50, is retiring from the BMW Group. While he has overseen all design work at BMW over the last few years (including all MINI products), Bangle remains more closely associated with that very first MINI.

Official Press Release: Christopher E. Bangle, the BMW Group’s Head of Design, has worked closely with Adrian van Hooydonk in BMW Group design development for nearly17 years. Now he is handing over his post to van Hooydonk, who is currently Head of BMW Automobile Design. “Christopher Bangle has had a lasting impact on the identity of BMW Group’s brands. His contribution to the company’s success has been decisive, and together with his teams he has mapped out a clear and aesthetic route into the future,” said Dr Klaus Draeger, BMW AG’s Board Member for Development. Dr Draeger went on to explain that the BMW Group was currently “in an excellent position”, thanks to a broad portfolio of automobiles and several new vehicle concepts due for market launch in the coming months and years. The BMW AG Management Board, he added, is looking forward to working with van Hooydonk as Head of BMW Group Design – a man who shares Bangle’s fascination for technology and aesthetics, tradition and innovation. Dr Draeger affirmed that van Hooydonk would be in a position to continue to build on a design philosophy, which extends across the BMW Group’s brands. Bangle’s plan to pursue his own design-related endeavours beyond the auto industry marks the start of a new phase in his life while maintaining strong ties with the BMW Group.

Over the years numerous designs for new vehicles and vehicle concepts have been developed under Christopher Bangle’s leadership. As well as continuing the BMW 3, 5 and 7 Series, he and his teams were responsible for a range of other models, including the BMW Z3, BMW Z4, BMW X5, BMW Z8, BMW X3, the new BMW 6 Series, the BMW X6 and the BMW 1 Series. Other developments under the auspices of Christopher Bangle include the new MINI and Rolls-Royce models and a number of innovative motorcycle concepts. During his tenure, Christopher Bangle was also instrumental in making the company’s consultancy subsidiary, BMW Group DesignworksUSA, what it is today: a global design agency in North America, Munich and Singapore for leading international brands and companies in a wide variety of industries.

Thanks to their outstanding design quality numerous products from all three of the BMW Group’s automobile brands have won a host of renowned awards from around the world. Bangle has always had a special aptitude for working with his teams to strengthen the identities and unmistakable images of the BMW Group’s brands and to inspire design innovations, said Dr Draeger, Board Member for Development. Over the years he has received a dozen patents for his technical applications and design. These, along with the one hundred additional patents awarded to the BMW Group Design under Bangle’s auspices, are a testimony to his creative and innovative power.

Born in the USA, Christopher Bangle, aged 52, has been Head of BMW Group Design Development since October 1992. After studying at the University of Wisconsin and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, he began his working life in Rüsselsheim, where he worked for Adam Opel AG. In 1985 he joined FIAT, where he became Director of the FIAT Centro Stile in 1992. Shortly afterwards he left the Italian automaker to come to Munich.

Throughout his career with the BMW Group Bangle’s right-hand man has been Adrian van Hooydonk, who is now set to become his successor. He described van Hooydonk as “truly a top professional in our business,” adding, “I am sure that the many strong design strategies he has helped us create for the BMW Group will continue to develop and evolve.”

Adrian van Hooydonk, aged 44, will take over as Director of BMW Group Design with immediate effect. In his new position he will be responsible for design development for the BMW, Rolls-Royce and MINI brands. Born in the Netherlands, van Hooydonk studied at Delft Polytechnic University in Holland and later at the Art Center Europe in Vevey, Switzerland, until 1992. From there he came to Munich, where he joined BMW as a designer. In the year 2000 he went to California to work for the BMW Group subsidiary Designworks USA. He was Director of the internationally renowned design agency from 2001 to 2004. Then, under Bangle as the BMW Group’s Head of Design, he became Head of the Brand Design Studio for BMW Automobiles.

The BMW 6 Series and 7 Series lines clearly bear the hallmark of van Hooydonk’s design influence, as do the Z9 Concept Car, the BMW Concept CS (unveiled in 2007) and the M1 Hommage Study. In 1997 van Hooydonk created the ACV 30 Show Car for MINI and more recently he and his team have developed the designs for the new BMW 7 Series and Z4 as well as for the Concept Progressive Activity Sedan, which celebrates its premiere at the Geneva Auto Show in early March 2009.

“I am honoured and extremely excited to take on this new responsibility”, says van Hooydonk. “BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce produce the best cars and motorcycles in their segment, and I am really looking forward to being able to contribute to the future development of these brands.” Speaking of his hopes for the years to come, van Hooydonk added: “I have no doubt that there are challenges ahead, but BMW’s depth in engineering and the passion of its talented design team are as strong as ever. Together I am sure we will be able to create some very sophisticated and extremely attractive concepts.”


+ Chris Bangle Talks Design / BimmerFile (via Autoweek Podcast)

  • C4

    I think Chris Bangle needs to be credited for taking BMW in a new and risky design direction. Whether you loved or hated his “Flame surfaced” designs it is undeniable that his vision may, after all, have worked for the long term.

    However, I think his time has come, and I am glad to see him going into retirement. BMW needs to re-connect with his design philosophy of the past and bring back the identity and “mojo” that put them on the map on the first place.

    Too bad the timing didn’t work out. This would have been a great position to be taken over by Frank Stephenson.

  • Jon

    There have been seemingly more nay-sayers than supporters of Bangle’s designs over the years. While his designs were controversial, I personally appreciate the “flame surfaced” look. I applaud his efforts to break out of the norm; to boldly go where no other designer dared, and I think history will show that he was undeniably integral to BMW’s success all these years.

    Good luck, Mr. Bangle, and thanks.

  • JonPD

    I never agreed with all of Mr. Bangle’s design directions but there is no doubt that he had a positive effect on group BMW. I always enjoyed hearing him speak about design, he has a decided passion for design which really comes across nicely. While may have issues with flame surfacing there is still no doubt that a lot of the more recent BMW’s are more sedated in many ways.

    Great luck in your future endeavors Mr. Bangle

  • Rocketboy_X

    So, who was in charge of the last MINI redesign? Please tell me it wasn’t van Hooydonk. It’s bad enough that he was involved in the ACV 30.

  • GregW

    The end of an era when many old BMW people saw Bangle’s designs as beyond the fringe and voted with their check books and bought other cars. I hope the new guy redesigns the hideous 1 series hatchback, and phases out the Banglisation to more traditional BMW designs like E46, E38, E39. Getting rid of the Bangle eagle-eye headlamps would be a good start. Was Frank Stephenson considered as a replacement? Perhaps you do not get a second shot with BMW.

  • Grmpydude

    GregW… I think Van Hooydonk is the man who designed those cars you speak of and yes Bangle was the director so he is, in the final analyst to blame, if that is a need for you. Frank is at McLaren last I heard.

    I’m sure, as the day goes on, the Bangle-bashing will get MIGHTY! I thought we had put all that behind us but I guess it was not spoken for so long it just looked that way.

    IMHO, BMW has grown tremendously since Bangle and his team started the redesign of the companies products and yes there were some missteps along the way but all in all it did what it was supposed to do, change the brand. I think they sold more Bimmers during that time, also.

    It’s really easy for us to criticize but actually doing that big of an undertaking took guts… How many of us could even come close?

    I still love the GINA project!


  • GregW

    Grmpydude – the new 7 is a start of de-bangleisation, and the 3 series was not radically bangleised. I rest my case. There seems to be a lot of retirements going on at BMW HO at the moment (see latest media). Maybe its a good time to take the golden handshakes while things are still good.

  • Grmpydude

    GregW… what case did you rest or make??? I think the words you are looking would be… next design phase, all companies go through that especially BMW.

    Ya think the economy or lack of one has anything to do with retirements? The 3 was complained heavily about by you Bangle haters also and it was quite a departure from the car before if ya looked at them side by side, flame surfaces and all.

  • Grmpydude

    Christopher Edward Bangle also ended BMW’s trend to “scale” through the series! In other words, he felt that scaling a 3 into a 5 or 7 was something BMW should get away from and that “scaling” practice detracted from the brands exclusivity.

    But scaling seems to be back with the MINI anyhow, well except for the SAV behemoth they are building. But I think scaling works for the MINI.

    Now I don’t claim to agree with the “Bangle Bustle” trunks but how many other manufacturers followed that design phase, good or bad… I thought it hideous!

  • Evan

    Overall I think Bangle was very positive for BMW Group. Even if a few BMW traditionalists were lost many other sales were made and BMW-copies have been popping since the changes. I think the E90 is a very nice design, along w/the 1er coupe/convertible, and new X5. Adrian did the very controversial and now refined 7 series along w/the 6er. While not my personal BMW favorites, they were striking. Radical design change is hard, but at least BMWs aren’t boring.

    And please stop referring to the impending MINI crossover as a behemouth. It is only 4 inches- Yes, FOUR INCHES, longer than a Clubman which while longer than an R56 hatch is still teeny next to every other subcompact.

    Sorry, just had to throw that out there.

  • C4

    I never had a problem with the design of BMWs from the 70’s. ’80s and ’90s. I wish BMW would build a car today as beautiful as a 1973 BMW 3.0 CS. Clean, sleek and very Germanic lines.

    BMW under Adrian Van HooyDonk needs to reconnect with what made BMWs such sought after machines.

    To me most 2000’s Bangle era BMWs look like plasti- Pontiacs mixed with Toyota blandness and weirdness.

    Later Bimmers do look better. But I am not a big fan of the current 5 series, 3 series sedan and X3 to name a few.

  • C4

    Bangle may have been instrumental in the launch of the R50 MINI, but fortunately he was not allowed to apply his flame surfacing mantra anywhere near it.

    Interesting that the MINI book I have written by Graham Robson (Second edition 8/2005) does not make mention of Mr. Bangle anywhere in it. There is a big photo of Gert Hildebrand and a photo or two of Frank Stephenson, but no mention of Chris Bangle in its pages.

    I plan to shoot up an email to Mr. Robson soon..

  • I am not a fan of Van Hooydonk either. Just look at the last Z4. Apparently, having spent time in California hasn’t helped his taste for fashion either: Suit jacket + pink shirt + grey scarf?

    We don’t rely on books. We rely on the actual designers who were involved.

  • C4


    Gabe I am just pointing out that Robson’s book compilation is extremely detailed, yet makes no mention of Bangle as being instrumental in the launch of the R50. I am not denying it. Simply making a comment.

    BTW, Graham Robson is an international correspondent for MC2 magazine.

  • Grmpydude

    C4…. I used C4 in the army

    MC2… is that mag still in business? Stopped my subscription last year and have 2-3 that I never took of it’s packaging. Talk about horrid design work… Gad! Wish that other MINI mag had survived, can’t remember it’s name though.

    As design director his name doesn’t have to be attached to all products but he’s still there overseeing. As far as your comments about his attire… I worked with some VERY, VERY talented Art Directors during my years in the design bizz and a lot of them couldn’t dress for merde!

    What’s wrong with the Z4?

  • C4

    I like the Z4 coupe, don’t care that much about the roadster version. The hardtop fixes the design significantly.

    But if you ask me, I prefer the old Z3 a lot better.

  • Grmpydude

    Thought the Z8 was spectacular and love the X6. I actually didn’t like the the Coupe but now see it in a kinder light.

  • C4

    The Z8 was a sensational car.

    The X6 doesn’t do anything for me..

  • DEVO

    Z8 was about it. Everything else was garbage. Especially the 5 and 7 series. Z4 was ok, but I can live without it.

  • DUDE!

    Gotta say if I was still involved with “going to the desert” or Baja and all that quad and camping stuff I’d get an X6. It’s just spank’n!

  • C4

    Here in the city of “Bling” I have yet to see more than 1 or 2 new X6’s. Clearly this car hasn’t been doing well from the perspective of this car obsessed place.

  • @C4: according to multiple reports in the media and from BMW, it’s been a huge success and is sold out in most markets worldwide.

  • DUDE!

    Since model design doesn’t happen over night, someone here mentioned the new 7 as the start of “De-Banglizing” BMW, I think the new 7 is rather nice, so if you think Chris had nothing to do with that car you have no idea how this all works.

    C4… Call up you BMW dealer and try and get a X6! Do you live in Hollyweird? Member of SCMM? When the MINI 1st came out didn’t see many here in Pasadena and it was a huge success… now I see them everywhere but I’ve noticed the obligatory “MINI Wave” seems to have vanished.

  • C4


    My comment is based on unscientific observations of the Miami vehicle fleet. This city is as car crazy as say Los Angeles. New models are often out in the street even before people know about them. In the last 6 months I have only seen 2 or 3 X6s.

    No doubt the X6 has been a sales success on money enclaves such as Dubai, but here the car is a really rare sight, very unusual for a BMW of any model designation.

    I plan to pass my 2 local BMW dealers and see how many of these are catching dust in the lot…

  • C4

    A Ferrari 599GTB has a point. A Toyota Prius has a point. A Ford F-150 has a point. But what, exactly, is the point of a BMW X6? Despite all the clever engineering, it still manages to artfully combine all the disadvantages of a tight-fitting coupe with all the downsides of a big SUV. The result is a vehicle that can’t go off-road or carry as much stuff as a regular SUV and doesn’t quite go around corners as well — or use fuel as efficiently — as any comparable BMW car.

    I see that BMW limited 2008 production of the X6 to 40,000 units worldwide. That partly explains why this ugly duckling with identity crisis is such a rare sight in car crazed South Florida….

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