Bimmer: art or commerce?
November 28, 2003 5:11 PM   Subscribe

"Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life and died a pauper" is Toby Richards-Carpenter defending a car designer that may be destroying BMW. Chris Bangle is the designer that believes it's all about the art, but his many enemies are petitioning him to stop the damage to BMW's reputation and bank balance. Whatever, his unusal/innovative work seems worth discussing.
posted by meech (41 comments total)
they look very next year--what's the problem? (they also remind me of that robot guy from Red Dwarf)
posted by amberglow at 5:13 PM on November 28, 2003

When I bought my ol trusty Citroen car, the last thing that I had in mind was "Hey I'm going to pickup chicks with this !" as a side effect of having a classy car. It's a box, it's ugly (when compared to any BMW) it's an object that doesn't have any fetish sexy power, but it's so damn cheap to own and buy that with the extra money I saved I bought myself some very comfortable italian leather shoes plus addictional wardrobe.

In my opinion it is better to spend money on your personal "image" care then spending on a car that shifts attention AWAY from you. I mean look at these BMWs, they're really attractive, but is the driver or the car the object of desire ?

As a side note: I'd rather spend more on safety, reliability and performance of a car then on its looks which is going to fade away anway : gimme a geek friendly engine I can tune myself , traction control, abs and all the really useful technical improvements.
posted by elpapacito at 5:32 PM on November 28, 2003

This must of been what happened when Cadillacs started to become popular with people that weren't white yuppies.
posted by Stan Chin at 5:37 PM on November 28, 2003

I hadn't realized that BMW owners/lovers had that large a stick up their collective bum.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:39 PM on November 28, 2003

in my opinion the new design are bland and too convergent with what the rest of the world is doing ... in my opinion the zenith of automotive design at bmw was reached with the 850 series
posted by specialk420 at 5:40 PM on November 28, 2003

From the Forbes article: "a little-understood reality--Bangle didn't pen the 5, or the Z4 or the 7 series. All of these cars were drawn by artists in his charge (in the case of the 5 it was Davide Arcangeli, who, sadly, recently passed away from leukemia), and at least some credit (or blame) belongs to these people as well."
posted by josephtate at 5:54 PM on November 28, 2003

The ass-end of the new 5-series looks like something Kia or Hyundai would build, and the new nose looks like what you'd get if your neighbor's Dodge Ram pickup fucked your Pontiac Grand Prix.

Not that I even like BMWs, but that thing is, well, stoopit.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:54 PM on November 28, 2003

Wow, BMW envy does not take long to rear its ugly head. :-(

These are (maybe were) great cars, great to drive, great to look at, reliable, durable, and CHEAP to run for long periods of time.

The styling had been distinctive and different enough. Now days, I am not so sure. These are more like high-style statement cars. They remind me of hot restaurants that open, get popular, and then close down when something newer and hipper shows up.

I'd buy a used 540 in a flash, but not one of these new sculptures on wheels.
posted by wpeyton at 5:54 PM on November 28, 2003

BMW is one of the world's most iconic, aspirational and emotive brands and their recent change in design direction has polarised opinion more than the American president; it is impossible for anyone with even a fleeting interest in cars to be ambivalent about the design of the latest 7 or 5 series.

Bangle has become the lightning rod for criticism with his effusive personality and purple designerese prose - "flame surfacing", anyone? However, it should be noted that it was BMW management that ordered him to effect a profound revolution in design philosophy, after several generations of "lookalike" models.

For those of you who dismiss this all as irrelevant, try thinking of a brand or category that you yourself hold dear to your heart and imagine that brand suddenly embracing a shocking new paradigm shift. I couldn't care less if the New York Yankees gave up playing baseball and became an ice-hockey team, but I imagine some might.
posted by plenty at 5:59 PM on November 28, 2003

""[W]hen you only make incremental changes, you find yourself in a corridor that gets narrower and narrower. Finally you reach a dead end, and by then the customer has abandoned you for a car that's fresh and new. We had to break through that corridor." from Chris Bangle in Top Gear.

I agree with plenty, it's the design paradigm that they've chosen along with the risk-taking that makes this issue, IMHO, interesting. Bangle was quoted in Esquire magazine: "I don't want a white ceiling, I want a Sistine Chapel, damn it!"

gimme a geek friendly engine I can tune myself , traction control, abs and all the really useful technical improvements.

That's all handled by the technology department. Self parking, eye monitoring for alertness, headlights that turn with the steering wheel, fighter-pilot styled heads-up displays. So James Bond, which is perhaps no coincidence.
posted by meech at 6:21 PM on November 28, 2003

I think the new 5 series is a good design and the mechanics are still BMW quality, but the rear and headlights design yearns for something, say, more classic.

The rest of the car has a tight sleek design that follows well with the vehicles class of style. But looking at the car from the rear you can see quite clearly that the rear lights facing upwards towards the edges makes for a somewhat cheesy approach to the rest of the cars demeanor.

Looking inside, its safe to say that anyone would love to drive this car. Leather, clean curves, very accesible shifter and a larger interior says class all over it.

Overall, a good design with some style flaws in the lighting approach.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:21 PM on November 28, 2003

Oh jeez, what on earth is wrong with those people? Aside from the crufty UI on that puck thingy, these last 18 months have been the only time in my lifetime I've even remotely *considered* BMW as an option - the only time they've interested me at all since the 2002.

The complainers - and I sense a lot of Cohibas out there, a lot of Tag-Heuers in this sad cohort - bring to mind the old saw about the difference between BMWs and porcupines.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:22 PM on November 28, 2003

Same here adamgreenfield. I always liked BMWs from an engineering and performance standpoint but it's only in the last couple that I've found their design intriguing. BMW did have it's own style, I just didn't find that style pleasing. Their old design was something that'd only ever appeal to me if I were 30 years older (from any point in time), wore a rolex on my wrist and a 1000 dollar blazer over my 200 dollar turtle neck.

So now I'm looking for a new vehicle and am leaning heavily towards a BMW.
posted by substrate at 7:45 PM on November 28, 2003

I don't find the new 5-series to be terribly offensive, and I believe the new 6-series looks spectacular. Having said that, the 7-series has taken quite a bit of time to 'grow' on me - but I don't find that to be a terrible design, either.

What I *do* find deplorable in BMWs these days is that God-awful "iDrive" system that they have hoisted upon their drivers. This is the single most horrific (ab)use of technology, and worst application to the automotive world that I can think of.

Bangle is taking the brand into a controversial, but interesting direction. iDrive is demonstrating that "German Engineering" doesn't mean common sense.
posted by tgrundke at 8:39 PM on November 28, 2003

If you've only used the 7-series iDrive, you should check out the iDrive system in the 5-series before you condemn. They fixed it up nicely, and removed at least eighty percent of the stupid.

(I like the new BMWs. People will always like the old one. Except in the case of the new Mercedes SL series)
posted by mosch at 8:55 PM on November 28, 2003

The iDrive is the puck I mentioned above. For thems whut care.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:02 PM on November 28, 2003

Looks great, but the back, as mentioned, looks like a Kia or Hyundai. It definately ruins the car.
posted by yevge at 11:12 PM on November 28, 2003

This must of been what happened when Cadillacs started to become popular with people that weren't white yuppies.

Yeah, if you don't like the new designs, you've just been brainwashed by The Man.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:15 PM on November 28, 2003

looks like a Kia or Hyundai

That's because the Kias and Hyundais look like German cars.
posted by kindall at 11:20 PM on November 28, 2003

just for the record, the z4 is HIDEOUS.

the others i like.
posted by chrisege at 11:38 PM on November 28, 2003

mr_crash_davis said it: the designs simply look like various other cars, and boring cars at that. My objection would not be his "taking the image forward" - if he were creating a progressive but distinct image I certainly wouldn't have a problem. I'm not particular fan of BMW, but at least you can spot an older BMW a mile off...
posted by nthdegx at 3:55 AM on November 29, 2003

Oh yes, and my Dad would call it "banana shaped", like he does anything that looks remotely like an 80's Ford Sierra.
posted by nthdegx at 3:56 AM on November 29, 2003

at least you can spot an older BMW a mile off...
because the Samaritans who drive them usually run their fog lamps regardless of the weather and blind me every time I meet one on the road at night.
posted by trondant at 4:22 AM on November 29, 2003

elpapacito, if you want abs, you've got to get away from the computer and exercise more :~]
posted by carter at 6:41 AM on November 29, 2003

Leap on to the hood of the nearest one, squat and unleash a steaming torrent of runny shit, is what I might do, were I as limber as once I was. You know, metaphorically.

The people who purchase automobiles as fashion accessories seem to me to be the same people who have children as fashion accessories, and I loathe both groups with equal, gleeful abandon.

(Oh, wait, it's not abject object-fetishism or consumer sex-surrogation run wild, it's design! How gauche of me. I'll just slink off now, shall I?)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2003

These are (maybe were) great cars, great to drive, great to look at, reliable, durable, and CHEAP to run for long periods of time.

I dated a guy who drove a BMW 330i. He ran over a nail, and a new tire cost him $300. Plus he was always bitching about the price of the premium gas he had to put in the thing.

It was fun weaving through other cars on the highway as though they were traffic cones, though.
posted by beth at 7:52 AM on November 29, 2003

I have wanted to purchase a BMW for years. I love the cars, and driving a convertible 330ci is an incredibly exhilarating experience. I love the branding and design of BMW and it has grown near to my heart. Truly the ride, design, and experience of the cars reflects the passion of the people that build them, and I know more than one.

That being said, the new designs are awful. Instead of modernizing and taking them to the next level, they have ruined them completely. The new 5 looks almost EXACTLY like the Lexus ES 300.

Lexus ES 300
BMW 5-Series

Its the same car. Why does everything have to look the same? All cars seem to be converging on this cheap uninspiring swoopy design. Sigh, Bangle has destroyed my desire for a BMW, and I know the account I was saving into just for one will now be redirected to something else.

And instead of just ruining the 7-series, he's doing it to the whole fleet. I agree the 6 looks great, but why do you have to kill the 3? We have Lexus and Toyota and Kia already. We dont need another!
posted by cmicali at 8:04 AM on November 29, 2003

And to the argument about a fashion accessory, give me a break. Sure some people buy them for that, some people also buy an iPod to look up to day and flashy. Some people actually buy iPods to listen to music, and most BMW owners I know own them because they love the cars and what they deliver, not because they want to look a certain way. I used to think they were about flash, and then I drove one.
posted by cmicali at 8:08 AM on November 29, 2003

You just don't fuck with perfection

even tho I've been lucky enough to test-drive this, and it's an awesome, awesome car as well

posted by matteo at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2003

Matteo, I so want the 32 AMG version of that awesome car! Screw Beemers, never wanted one in the least.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:52 AM on November 29, 2003

I'm not sure I understand the source of the controversy, since just about all cars on the road today look like knockoffs of the '89 Taurus. But it's not really fair to blame some random dude as BMW products have always been horrifyingly ugly. Hasn't the idea been to keep them ugly but highly functional, a sort of yuppie VW bug?

Then again, don't take my word for anything, as I'm of the opinion that luxury automobiles stopped being made after the Continental got all crappy.
posted by majick at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2003

Got one of these sports tourers (what?) a short while ago. Splendid! Can't understand what all the fuss is about.

However, the only cloud on my otherwise sunny horizon is that my iPod/iTrip won't play in it because of the metal-film glass between it and the FM antenna. Shit.
posted by RichLyon at 10:31 AM on November 29, 2003

Hmmm... I might be the only person here that likes the look of the Z4. The 6-series also looks great. It reminds me of an Aston-Martin. Of course I don't really care about BMW now that Montoya will be driving for McLaren so I'll probably be looking at Mercedes for my next car (yes I'm that mindless).
posted by gyc at 2:21 PM on November 29, 2003

Montoya & Ralf drive the BMW SUVs btw. Although by 2005 I am sure Juan will have a nice lil SLR.

I like the new BMW styling, it seems less formuliac compared to the previous style.
posted by riffola at 2:37 PM on November 29, 2003

See, it's the branding I've always hated. It doesn't take too many t-shirts detourning BMW: THE ULTIMATE DRIVING MACHINE as EPSILON PHI: THE ULTIMATE PARTY MACHINE to see where their target audience lies.

Whether or not BMWs are *actually* fun, practical, economic or comfortable is entirely beside the point, because they've painted themselves so far into a corner with their positioning that I would sooner shoot myself in the leg a la Chris Burden than be seen driving one, so rich is their association with assholism.

Of course, being the car of choice for the testosterone-poisoned nouveaux riches the planet over is not such a bad place to be from a corporate profitability standpoint. One sees why BMW does what it does.

So for those folks so inclined, I say, sure, why not? Enjoy your Ultimate Driving Experience. And for the rest of us there are Saabs and Volvos. ; . )
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:15 PM on November 29, 2003

Looks like BMW is 'doing a Mercedes' but at the top end of their range.

When Mercedes-Benz was bought by DaimlerChrysler it really went to crap. The C class Mercedes lost their butch regal look and turned into the average Ford saloon 'with a star on the front'. The S class kept some dignity, and the SLK got cuter, but the C class was destroyed forever.

BMW appear to be tacking a similar tack across the entire range. Risky, but I'd say the change is less damaging than the new C class dumbanization.
posted by wackybrit at 8:14 PM on November 29, 2003

What's the difference between a BMW and a porcupine?

A porcupine has its pricks on the outside.

(and the 5-series kinda looks like a Mazda)
posted by Frank Grimes at 9:00 PM on November 29, 2003

I was driving behind a new 7 series the other day, and this immediately came to mind.

One of my favorite bimmers would have to be this one.
posted by groundhog at 6:09 AM on November 30, 2003

the zenith of automotive design at bmw was reached with the 850 series
Absolutely. The 850 is one of those cars that still looks fantastic many years after being designed, as do most of the BMW range. By sticking to classic design instead of following the latest trends, they have been able to retain a basic design for many years with minor updates from time to time. While I don't mind the new designs, they will date pretty quickly and the cars will blend into the background of design clones.

stavrosthewonderchicken, it is unfortunate that a large percentage of purchasers of BMWs tend to be those who do so to boost their egos or because their image (in their own minds) requires that they own "at least" a BMW. There are a lot, though, who buy them because they appreciate the engineering excellence and general high quality of the cars. There are huge numbers (like me) who would like to buy one for these reasons, but are not able to, so have to stare in envy instead.

My boss used to own a 3-series, not because of the above reasons (he could not care less about cars), but because he got a good deal on a lease - after owning it for 3 years, he found that it was the cheapest car to run that he had ever owned, including the cost of full dealer servicing and was also the most reliable.
posted by dg at 6:32 PM on November 30, 2003

I've never really been a fan of the way beemers look...they're kinda like know, boxy...but good.

That said, those pictures of the 5 series make it look like a pretty groovy looking ride. I still wouldn't buy one, but it's better looking than the boring monotony of sedans everywhere. Cars have gotten dull...there should be some that don't meet conventional rules.
posted by dejah420 at 8:24 PM on November 30, 2003

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