A sports car made of fabric. Yes I was laughing too. Right up until I went to see BMW’s amazing GINA Visionary Light Model concept in Munich at the end of last week.
You see after sitting in it, touching it and seeing the thing it all starts to make sense. Especially when BMW’s evangelical design boss, Chris Bangle, is giving you the guided tour.
Bangle’s view is why not? With modern construction the outer panels are not integral to a car’s safety. And the production and design methods needed to style and press steel or aluminium all add to inflexibility and cost. And why not let us have more of a say in how car’s look, or what colour they are? Or change it as often as we like?
Then there’s also the not inconsiderable bonus of added sustainability: fabric is about 20 per cent the weight of steel and making it creates a lot less CO2 as well.
It takes a lot of getting used to though. Even after spending a couple of hours with the car it felt odd being that there was no resistance to the ‘panels’. And when you climb into the snug cabin, pretty much everything you see and touch gives way to your hand – there are virtually no hard points on the surface.
One nice touch is that the steering wheel and fascia move towards you when it detects that someone is sitting in the driver’s seat. It would be more normal if everything was wood, leather and plastic but it all seems a lot stranger when it’s fabric stretching and contorting in front of you.
So is there a future in it? You wouldn’t bet against it. Though Bangle admitted that this car dates back as far as seven years ago, so why hasn’t he shown it to us until now. Maybe some of its clever ideas will be appearing sooner than we think…