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CAR interviews Chris Bangle: what he did next (2009)

By Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Motor Industry

22 December 2009 12:30

Chris Bangle is a hard act to follow, even for Chris Bangle. Like him or loath him, the former BMW design director is one of the most famous car designers of our times, recognised for shaking the established status quo with his ‘flame surfacing’ and his radical take on car design.
Then in March 2009, after 16 solid years, Bangle announced his retirement from the Bavarian brand and – seemingly – car design. He packed suitcase and moved to an abandoned farmhouse in the Piemonte hills which he has been busy transforming into a home, a studio to house his design consultancy Chris Bangle Associates, and a vineyard at the back that will produce local dolcetto wine.
Surely Bangle must be up to more than making wine in Italy!
To find out, CAR Online caught up with Bangle to find out what he's been up to since quitting BMW.

‘I’ve been drinkin' some wine, eatin' some cheese, catchin' some rays,’ he says, echoing Kelly's Heroes. Bangle remains active on the design scene but since he is a ‘silent’ BMW employee until March 2010, he has been unable to do any car-related projects that conflict with his former employer. Instead, he’s been busy lecturing and running workshops around the world, dissecting car design and finding solutions for future mobility.
So far he has rejected approaches by other car companies, feeling that his recent expertise is better suited to working as a consultant. But he does admit: ‘At least that’s what I’ve been approached to do so far.’
Bangle has also been designing products for unnamed clients through Chris Bangle Associates. The ‘associates’ are freelancers. ‘My ideal would be to have interns working here – young designers with fresh ideas.’
What does Bangle think of current car design?
Bangle is critical of this generation of car designers and their fear of challenging ‘brand holiness’, as he calls it. He laments that too many car companies just repeat what's been done before. ‘You can always argue that the generation before didn’t have the constraints that we have, but that’s crap. The worst thing you can do is to think design is a rolling wheel fixed on a track of inevitability and you can’t move it left or right.’
He goes on to mention the Modulo, created at a time when a consultant like Pininfarina could simply say to Ferrari: this is the next Ferrari. ‘Can you imagine them doing that today? After all, Ferrari is the number one brand behind Coca Cola. Who is going to come up to them and say this is exciting, what do you say to that?’
This is crucial to how he hopes to operate Chris Bangle Associates. ‘As a consultant you have the dilemma of having to keep the customer happy and indicate to them that unless they deal with their brand inertia, they have stopped their own future.’

>> Click 'Next' for more of CAR's interview with Chris Bangle