CAR interviews BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk (2009)

Published: 03 November 2009

CAR: Chris Bangle once told a great story about sending BMW designers to study with an origami master to gain influence. Judging by the Vision EfficientDynamics concept it looks like you were on that trip?

Adrian van Hooydonk: I didn’t go along but in the recent past our designers have experimented with a lot of things – folded metal, folded paper, even plywood – and on this concept car maybe all of that came to fruition. We wanted to make a car that looks immediately very, very light. All the body panels seem to be lightly draped on the surface – it’s not a solid – you see the material. It’s carbonfibre, painted and sanded, and the chassis is aluminium, so it’s really lightweight: 1400kg.

The Frankfurt show concept looks incredible but what is its real purpose?

The project shows there is still a future for individual mobility of a sporty nature and this is our idea of how to do it. It’s a pure concept, a vision that needs to look desirable and sexy but also considers fuel and emissions reduction. The elements that you see in it like lightweight and aerodynamics can be transported into other vehicles as well.

But can you/will you build it?

I don’t know. We would have to do crash performance and all that kind of stuff, which of course we haven’t done for this concept, but it’s not impossible. In a super sports car the price can be higher and that would be an easier place to start to incorporate some of these high cost materials than at the bottom end. A car like this has to be about all-out performance and all-out efficiency so you need to bring the weight down anyway.

The mysterious press shots for the concept of you in a forest with leather-clad female co-pilots do not form the usual run-of-the-mill photoshoot. Who came up with the idea?

I wanted to do something different. We wanted Peter Vann to do the photos and asked Michael Michalsky – the former head of design at Adidas – to come up with the all-white outfits that the hostesses also wore at the Frankfurt show. They’re made of thin stretched leather with colours to match the car, but in a sophisticated way.

You’ve designed a very fast-looking concept in the Vision EfficientDynamics. Does that reflect your personal driving style?

I’m not so bad actually. I go on a racetrack every now and then and I enjoy driving – I live in Germany – but I don’t do silly things on public roads. Using a Bluetooth phone set is my worst habit.

What annoys you most about others’ driving?

Those drivers who are undecided about which lane they want to be in or how fast they want to go. I don’t understand why other drivers need to be directly in front of me!

What was your first car?

A Renault 4, a little strange but a car I love.

Which car past or present do you wish you’d designed?

The 1970 Lancia Stratos by Bertone, it’s still super-beautiful and modern.

And which car are you glad you didn’t?

I don’t want to be unkind, as it’s not in my nature, although maybe my wife will tell you different!

Your love of the 1970s seems to extend to watches too, judging by the Heuer Calculator on your wrist. Are you a collector?

I have six or eight watches, usually automatic chronographs from the 1970s. I like big watches from the '70s in particular as people don’t know so much about them compared to some other modern ones.

By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator