The at-times controversial car designer Chris Bangle has resurfaced with a fresh new automotive project. We ask what else he’s been up to

Infamous car designer Chris Bangle, known for models such as the divisive fourth-generation BMW 7 Series and the more widely regarded Fiat Coupé, has been off our radar since leaving BMW in 2009.

That is until now. Bangle has reappeared with a very different project to all that have come before: a wacky Chinese city car concept called Redspace, which intends to reimagine the idea of space in the car.

Revealed at the LA motor show in November, the car, which Bangle and his team have been working on since 2014, is likely to make production by 2020. Bangle is optimistic that its design will change little, although he acknowledges that cost could be a hindrance.

So why did Bangle leave BMW? “I decided I had to leave BMW after 15 years – in the end it was 17. Not because I didn’t like BMW but because if I stayed, I knew I was going to change and it was not going to be pretty. Many car design chiefs I’ve known, they all end their careers badly. People get bitter, they hang on tooth and nail to keep control of their creativity.”

And so Bangle hatched a plan to set up his own design consultancy in Italy. BMW did ask that he didn’t design cars for a couple of years, and Bangle was happy to oblige. “For me, car design has very little to do with four wheels,” he says.

One of his first projects was overhauling a nursing home in Hiroshima, after its boss happened upon Bangle’s Italian studio. “A huge amount of car design thinking was in that project,” he says. “The place is booked out.” The unexpected projects don’t stop there. Bangle has designed packaging for Hennessy VSOP, saying the design had to be sympathetic to the cognac brand’s status as “an untouchable icon”.

He likened it to Mini’s successful relaunch, in which he was involved. The cognac project worked: “Hennessy love it. It’s one of its most lucrative offerings.” There have been superyachts too, even spaceships –the latter done “in full scale”.

A curious, ongoing project is a cartoon brand called Arky Arch, complete with website and podcast. Its intention is educational, sharing the creative process of cartoons, encouraging creativity in children and showcasing a positive side to the internet.

Bangle’s consultancy team is now eight- strong, although he will take more people on relevant to specific projects, including ex-BMW designers and engineers.

It’s hard to pin down Bangle’s view of his best work: “The further away you get from being the physical creator of it and more the manager, the more you’re proud of your team. For example, the Z4 to me was spectacular because it was the first time we had two women [Juliane Blasi and Nadya Arnaout] doing a major sports car for a major production house. I don’t think anyone else has done that in the past 30 years.

“The last car I actually penned was the Fiat Coupé, which I really like. The more I see it, the more I like it!”

And what of his latest project, the Redspace? “I am super-proud of this car,” he says. “This is a big deal to me that we were able to do something which is new to car design.”

The project will remain key to Bangle until it goes into production, but what else does he want to achieve? There are plenty of potential projects Bangle won’t divulge but, speaking more broadly, he reveals more of his altruistic side. “I want to help car design move forward,” he says. “I want it to get out of its preconceived ideas of what it is and what it can be.

“Right now, we are at a crossroads [with design] which is going the wrong way. Designers have helped convince the world you will prefer things made by machines rather than people; you will prefer perfection over character. That unfortunately is disenfranchising a huge amount of this planet’s population.”

Bangle’s benches

According to Bangle himself, his biggest achievement is his Big Benches project. “You may know me as a car designer but, where I live, I’m the bench guy,” he says. What started as a desire to have a 2.5m by 3m bench for him and his wife to enjoy is now a non-profit organisation called the Big Bench Community Project.

Bangle gives the patented plans away for free so long as the benches adhere to strict criteria. For example, it has to be set up where it won’t upset anyone and in a place where people want to go. There are now 44 Big Benches in Italy and New Zealand and there have been enquiries from the UK, Germany and the US. He says: “In front of our house on a good weekend I’ll have 200 cars parked for people to sit on a bench. I’m so proud of it. The key rule is no public money, only private donations or volunteers. That’s not typical in Italy. This is a private-funded concept for the public. This is wonderfully effective.”

Read more 

Chris Bangle Redspace electric city car 

Never dull: the car designs of Chris Bangle

Our Verdict

BMW 5 Series

The BMW 5 Series has been the go-to mid-sized executive saloon, and G30 generation brings 7 Series luxury limo quality to the class, but is it still the best?

Join the debate

Comments
22

13 January 2018
BMW evidently needs a new Bangle. The current 6 was a disaster, so too the current suicidally dull 7.

13 January 2018

BMW designs have reverted to being bland.   Remember his 5 Series?   Definitely unique.   Now you can't tell the difference between it and the current 3 Series without checking the badges.

 

And find some reliability engineers for the engines.   Or some decency to stand by your "technology" when it goes wrong.   Too many former BMW drivers have been burnt by very expensive design flaws in the engine department.

 

13 January 2018

And with all Audis ? u can pick each model from a glance ? they have looked the same for 15 years 

13 January 2018
Symanski wrote:

BMW designs have reverted to being bland.   Remember his 5 Series?   Definitely unique.   Now you can't tell the difference between it and the current 3 Series without checking the badges.

 

And find some reliability engineers for the engines.   Or some decency to stand by your "technology" when it goes wrong.   Too many former BMW drivers have been burnt by very expensive design flaws in the engine department.

 

I agree with you 100%, the others here wouldn't recognised good design if it slapped them on the face.

13 January 2018
Symanski wrote:

BMW designs have reverted to being bland.   Remember his 5 Series?   Definitely unique.   Now you can't tell the difference between it and the current 3 Series without checking the badges.

 

And find some reliability engineers for the engines.   Or some decency to stand by your "technology" when it goes wrong.   Too many former BMW drivers have been burnt by very expensive design flaws in the engine department.

 

 

Yes, we know you don’t like BMW. How about an objective comment? Bangles 5 series was love it or loath it.

Original Z4 needed a significant styling update to make it coherent. His comment on being proud about it involving two women in the design grates with me as it’s irrelevant whether they were male or female, sounds like he said it for effect. 

13 January 2018

<quote> Original Z4 needed a significant styling update to make it coherent. </quote>

No it didn't.   Actually it is better styled than many cars.   Take any line on the body and you can trace it onto another.   It flows; a future classic.

 

As for me and BMW, don't blame me for being harsh with them when I've been burnt by their refusal to repair design faults that they do in other countries, just not the UK.

 

14 January 2018
Symanski wrote:

<quote> Original Z4 needed a significant styling update to make it coherent. </quote>

No it didn't.   Actually it is better styled than many cars.   Take any line on the body and you can trace it onto another.   It flows; a future classic.

 

As for me and BMW, don't blame me for being harsh with them when I've been burnt by their refusal to repair design faults that they do in other countries, just not the UK.

 

 

Z4 subjective of course, but I did buy a 2nd generation model with the decent lights and shut lines. 

Your comment on BMW engines, etc is irrelevant to this post on Bangle styling. 

14 January 2018
Paul Dalgarno wrote:

Z4 subjective of course, but I did buy a 2nd generation model with the decent lights and shut lines. 

Your comment on BMW engines, etc is irrelevant to this post on Bangle styling. 

 

So your comment on buying a model which has nothing to do with Bangle is more relevant to those who've had a Bangle era model with a duff engine?

 

13 January 2018

Bangle is a disturbed individual, glad he`s not at BMW anymore!

13 January 2018
mikergill wrote:

Bangle is a disturbed individual, glad he`s not at BMW anymore!

Is that why Merc is the only luxury maker to post an increase in sales last year? That the 6 coupé is no longer sold in UK should tell you something.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Volvo V60 2018 road test review hero front
    Car review
    24 June 2018
    Volvo's reborn estate has a svelte image and upmarket aspirations. How does the V60 stack up against the likes of Mercedes and BMW?
  • Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S road test review hero front
    Car review
    22 June 2018
    Is AMG's rapid GLC 63 SUV the answer to your prayers, or to a question nobody’s asking?
  • Dacia Duster 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    It's still not as refined as other SUVs, but in terms of sheer value the second-generation Duster is very much in a class of its own
  • Ford Ka+ Active 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    This SUV-inspired makeover for Ford’s city-friendly small car will find its fans, but the Ka+ Active doesn’t set any new benchmarks for the class
  • Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 long-term review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    The Japanese hot hatch is all grown up in terms of character, technology and price, but is it still a fun-loving kid at heart? Let’s find out