It’s been the end of an era this week in the world of automotive design, as the head of design for car manufacturer BMW, Chris Bangle, has announced that he has resigned from the position he’s held since 1992. While as many people didn’t like a lot of his choices as did (particularly die-hard BMW enthusiasts), Bangle was one of the most well-known and controversial designers in the business, leading up the look and feel of BMW, as well as for Mini and Rolls Royce (subsidiaries of BMW), for more than a decade and a half, resulting in the company’s continued brand strength. As of his announcement, he’s to be replaced by Adrian van Hooydonk, who has also long held a pivotal role in the manufacturer’s design department.
Bangle, say industry sources close to him and BMW, has been making overtures for months about quitting. Since he signed on 17 years ago, he has worked for five BMW chairmen, an unusual tenure for design chiefs. He has been working on renovation of a home in Tuscany, Italy, and has discussed going into the wine-making business.
That’s not to say he hasn’t been busy on the design front. His most recent high-profile design is the Gina, an experimental car that seeks to replace an automobile’s metal or fiberglass skin with a cloth sheath that can change the shape and aerodynamics of the car. The idea — something that Bangle has talked about as far back as design school in the early 1980s — is to make a car that’s as safe as current cars, with a flexible shape.
For further reading on Bangle’s big move out, we recommend reading David Kiley‘s reaction to the change in power over at BusinessWeek‘s car blog, The Auto Beat.