Controversial designer Chris Bangle, the man behind the notorious E65 BMW 7-Series "Bangle Butt," has some rather sharp criticism for the current crop of automotive designers in an upcoming full-length interview with Automotive News Europe. The preview, posted on Automotive News, details parts of the interview, with the always vocal Bangle lamenting the state of modern automotive design.

"Even concept cars today simply anticipate the next production model coming down the line. Is this innovation? No. And at the end of the day this is what's preventing car design from moving into a new era." Controversial as Bangle's design philosophy may be, we can't help but think he has a point. His so-called "flame surfacing" at BMW and other stylistic elements had a huge influence on modern automotive design, although as the years have passed, there hasn't been much innovation on the same scale.

Interestingly, Bangle also mentions that he's been courted by a few manufacturers that wanted to install the American as the head of their design teams. He's flatly rejected them, telling ANE, "It's not something you can do part time, you have to do it with all your heart and soul or you're going to get it wrong."

The full interview with Chris Bangle will go live at on Automotive News Europe's website on Monday, September 2.


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  • 134 Comments
      George Krpan
      • 1 Year Ago
      I agree with Bangle. The perfect example is Mercedes, how ugly they've gotten. They will be out of style long before they're worn out, American style planned obsolescence. Full size Ford and Chevy pickups, horrific, all gee gaw, no design substance. As if they're customers are apes, attracted to anything shiny.
      john m
      • 1 Year Ago
      This coming from the guy who designed the "Bangle Butt". However, he's right. There are a lot of boring designs out there. But is it a lack of imagination? Or does it cost too much money to create very visually stimulating designs while considering crash standards, insurance costs, aerodynamics, weight, manufacturing and design costs, resistance to door dings etc etc. I definitely agree with Bangle but I also don't want a car that costs $25K to become a $33K car overnight. I think ONE example of a company who put some style in their designs while keeping things affordable is Hyundai. Specifically the Sonota and Elantra. You may not like them but I think they've thrown in some nice styling cues while keeping things affordable. There are other examples too but I'm not going to name them all. But definitely more needs and can be done.
        Camaroman101
        • 1 Year Ago
        @john m
        i'd say i think it may have to do with aerodynamics and space. the more eye catching of an exterior, the smaller the interior dimensions must become, and when a vehicle may be blasted by journalist by how tight or cramped it may be, that can cost sales, so no one wants to put themselves at a disadvantage over the competition. i dont think it's entirely true though, and cars are getting bolder styling than ever before. compare midsize or compacts from 2000, 1995, 1990 to todays vehicles and todays vehicles look like concepts compared to those.
      mikeybyte1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Although I was not a big fan of most of his designs, I do agree with his position. Most "concept" cars are tarted up versions of production vehicles. Remove the door handles. Replace the side mirrors with cameras. Oversize the wheels. Go wild with the lighting. Add some crazy paint. Voila! Concept car. Then take those things off and it is production ready. Think back to the early days when concept cars were truly conceptual showing radical ideas. The goals were to push the envelope and inspire. There is not too much of that these days.
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      He is right.
      John
      • 1 Year Ago
      He is certainly right to a point. While technical limitations of the time may have a lot of influence as to why certain shapes are most prevalent, there is really no excuse for so many companies to offer almost identical taillight designs. That is an area where something more dynamic could be simple enough to introduce, and instead you get car after car with blocky ,stacked designs what a slant on one side. Really? They will never admit it, but most designers very much like to stay in the middle of the herd. As for Bangle himself, The flame surfacing was good from the very beginning, which is why it has spread so much.The Butt was not. Despite his explanations, the original Z4 had sides that looked like they had been in an accident. He had some very good ideas, but his fondness for loudly defending his bad ones as if they were also good did him no favors.
        manure
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John
        I wouldn't blame this on designers. Think about who approves the designs and what they want. "Middle of the herd" is what sells the highest volume. Doing a risky design is a financial risk the CFO might not like. Car designers might design something great, but will their company agree to build it?
      _I_I_II_I_I_
      • 1 Year Ago
      yeah right buddy
      48Chevy
      • 1 Year Ago
      I remember most of the 1970s into the early 1980s when all I heard about was fuel economy, CAFE, exhaust emissions and crash safety most vehicles were lumpy messes. It's pretty much the same today, for me, except that most of today's vehicles are uglier and can get out of their own way.
      axiomatik
      • 1 Year Ago
      Whether you like his styling or not, he is completely right. Automotive styling has been in a rut for 2 decades. Automotive styling used to go through massive transformations. New designs looked nothing like cars from 20 years prior. Today, you can't say that. Current models look like slight evolutions of cars from the early 90's. Take a look at this graphic I just found, illustrating my point: http://www.joesherlock.com/Car-Evolution.html It shows pairs of cars, separated by 15 years, and the massive change in styling that happened between them. Then take a look at the last pair.
      NamorF-Pro
      • 1 Year Ago
      I agree dude! We need more variety and actual designers who can design. Maybe designers need to be payed more..? I mean, why not? I'm striving into the autodesigning industry myself and the salary is lower than that of a construction worker. No joke! Designers need to be payed in accordance to their success in the industry and how appealing their skills are.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 1 Year Ago
      Bangle's "flame surfacing" took BMW from producing some of the most attractive and timeless designs in its history (E39, E38, E46) to hideous bloated abortions. Too many automakers these days are attempting to create "interesting" designs, but only succeeding in making their lineups UGLY. What's missing is clean, classy styling. Note to automakers: do not listen to him
        Carmaker1
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        Ironically when Bangle arrived at BMW in October 1992, the E38 was already in production shape due in 1994. However, the E39 was still being designed and E46 development begun that month. By the 1993 final design freeze, it is very possible that he influenced any changes that Joji Nagashima made to the final E39 exterior before it was frozen for 1995 production. The E46 sedan's final production design is even credited to Chris Bangle, as the original 1994 sketches by Erik Goplen were transformed into the 1998 production E46 sedan in 1995-early 1996 by Bangle himself. Goplen only designed the final E46 coupe exterior in 1996-97. The E46 M3 was designed by Ulf Weidhase during 1997-99. Bangle changed the design direction in 1997, when design work on the E65 began and after it ended for the E53 X5. I can agree that Bangle's extreme design vision from 1997-2005, brought about radical looking BMWs in the 2000s. The GINA concept made in late 1998, inspired the "flame-surfacing" and the 2002/03 Z4 design concept of August 1999. The ugly X Coupe first publicly previewed flame surfacing in early 2001. Actually, the E65 & E63 6er have nothing to do with flame surfacing, as the E65 was pretty much finished by early 1999 and the E63/64 design was inspired in 2000 by the 1999 Z9 Concept (developed to preview the E65 design language). The first "flame-surfaced" BMWs are the E85 Z4 (1999 design) and E60 5er (2000 design). Of course, my favorite BMWs will always be the E38, E39 540i/M5, and E46 330i/M3, despite having only Bangle-influenced BMWs(F02 & E64) in my family.
      Street King
      • 1 Year Ago
      Go look at all the ugly BMW's Bangle did. He didn't just make the 7-series horrendous, all of them became horrendous to look at. I have no idea why this guy is so highly regarded - while others that have designed far better looking cars go unnoticed. WTF.... Further, they don't make crazy concept cars anymore for a few reasons: 1- Expense, largely wasted if its not going to be used on a production vehicle. 2- Who wants to see their production car 3 years before they can buy it?? Silly.
        Txdesign
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Street King
        Don't agree with you at all on the "crazy concept cars". People still want the fantasy, even if most never makes it to production. That's why high fashion is shown on supermodels, not your mom.
        sp33dklz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Street King
        Couldn't agree more. His influence on BMW has ruined my fondness of them. I hate flame surfacing with a passion. But, I do believe he has a bit of a point. Almost all manufacturers are still using flame surfacing as their design motif. I can think of very few cars recently that broke a mold and tried something new, and all of them are extremely successful. (Juke / Veloster / Soul). Playing it safe will not always put you at the top. Risks need to be made.
          Street King
          • 1 Year Ago
          @sp33dklz
          Maybe with new 3d tech the car companies can get back into concepts, cheaply. Just present a non-functional plastic buck that looks like a car (Orange GTO concept from years ago was fake) that way if the public doesn't like it they can easily scrap the program. But still, if its well received, nobody wants to wait 3-5 years until they can buy it in the "gotta have it now" age we live in. Hence the 90 day rule Chrysler and others have, when they wont debut a new car at an auto show unless it'll be at dealers within 3 months - but its a risky feat as people may not like it! (but the product has been through countless clinics by then to lessen said risk)
        Aryan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Street King
        with the exception of the 7 series, all of Bangle's BMWs were better looking than their current counterparts. compared his 5 series to the current one, yuck.
          Carac
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Aryan
          I greatly prefer the F12 to the E60. The E60 always looked like someone took classic BMW design cues, made it much more angular/edgy...then inflated it like a balloon with resulting in a bulging, distorted mass of metal.
        Carmaker1
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Street King
        To be honest, Bangle was there from October 1992. The only vehicle in gestation he didn't influence was the E38 at the time, as that was already fully designed by then. The E39 5-Series & Z3, through the X5 & Z8 were designed under him and his traditional, but modern BMW design philoshpy. Yet, everyone acts as if he arrived at BMW 5 years later. Basically, one can blame him for the radical design visions he adopted in 1997(radical themes+constrained design engineering=ungainly proportions) & in late 1998(GINA Concept=flame surfacing=Z4, E60 etc.). All of that spawned the E65 and models that came after it. Every BMW model (not variant) designed before 1997, was unaffected by this, yet still bear Bangle's influence if designed after late 1992. Origins of all concepts nowadays still vary, as well as the automaker's intent to create & showcase them. They can be based on an already finalized, more mundane production design or created from scratch to influence future design language or a production variant. Some are works in progress, like the BMW i8, Acura NSX, and Lexus LF-A were, so they'll be showcased to gouge public perception.
      Really
      • 1 Year Ago
      Innovate? That's laughable! Bangle set BMW back a decade.
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