For BMW design chief Chris Bangle, the three door 1 Series and the concept for the soon to be launched M3 presented at Geneva are but another step in the direction of an automotive revolution in which he has so much confidence that he even goes so far as to set a date: “The window”, he says, “will be between 2020 and 2025.”

It is high time for change, he claims. “The change from wood to steel took about ten years, and it took about fifteen to change from hand welding to automated assembly lines. The transition to a new type of car will take no longer.” But what type of car is he talking about?

Perhaps even he himself isn’t entirely sure, but he has countless ideas in mind, from
both technical and styling standpoints, which could possibly pave the way for this revolution. “The most important thing”, he says, “is to start challenging paradigms, and sometimes you need a big hammer to break them down before people take notice and accept the new.” While this does not mean that the two BMWs unveiled at Geneva are already ushering in the revolution, according to Bangle, they are proof that it is possible to imagine the car “in a different way”.

The most interesting feature of the three door 1 Series is the side door which, while frameless in design, is extremely stiff, thus reducing manufacturing costs. This is a solution that could filter into other models: “Optimising is not enough on its own, we need to think in terms of whole families of cars”. The M3 concept, on the other hand, introduces a new ‘M look’: “We have redefined the concept of sportiness, upturning the V shape of the apron which, instead of starting wide at the top and tapering towards the bottom, now widens as it descends towards the wheels, making width a symbol of sportiness.

” Both cars embody, to some degree, an attempt to break free of conceptual stagnation. And it is this very spirit of innovation which, says Bangle, is the key to understanding what is lacking in today’s automotive paradigms…

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 164

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