Discussions regarding BMW’s controversial grille designs ramped up this year with the launch of the facelifted 7 Series, and grew louder with the reveal of the BMW X7. However, van Hooydonk believes the criticism - led by UK commentators according to BMW’s monitoring - has now incorrectly put a focus on BMW grille designs as a whole.
“I don’t think it should be a BMW brand discussion at all, but rather one of the 7 Series alone,” said van Hooydonk. “All of our other cars are world cars, where the various tastes of the market tastes converge with no discrepancies, but the 7 Series sits separately.
“In Europe - the smallest market - the buyers are understated, but in the US and China - where most 7 Series are sold - they are younger and more extrovert. When we launched the new 7 Series [in 2015] it was criticised for not looking different enough, so the message for the facelift was clear: make it stand out. And now we have.”
However, van Hooydonk predicted that the separation in global tastes would not last long, pointing to feedback that he is increasingly receiving from BMW’s Shanghai design centre. “I hear from them that design tastes in China are developing rapidly,” he said. “Yes, they still want a modern look that pushes boundaries, but they are increasingly calling for subtle too. The gap is narrowing down, so I see the 7 Series design coming together with the rest of the range in a short time.”
Asked about the X7’s grille design van Hooydonk argued that it was in proportion to the car and smaller than those found on rival brands, including Range Rover, the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLS. “Yes, the X7’s grille is bigger than other BMW’s - but so is the X7 bigger than any BMW before it. That one is in proportion.
“Don’t worry, I don’t want the brand to turn into an oversized kidney grille brand - but I believe we understand the reasons for what we have done with the 7 Series and that the issue will solve itself thanks to evolving tastes in the markets for which the grille was introduced.”