DETROIT - After criticism that the look of its vehicles hasn't changed enough, BMW aims to usher in a new chapter of design with six vehicles set to debut in 2018.
The new direction debuts with the X2 coupe-styled crossover shown this month at the Detroit auto show and going on sale in the U.S. this spring, said Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president of design for BMW Group.
"We're going to clean things up; we're going to use fewer lines; the lines that we'll have will be sharper and more precise," van Hooydonk told Automotive News. "On the interior, we're going to have fewer buttons - the cars will begin to show their intelligence, so you have to give it less input."
With the changes, BMW designers will pull each car further from "its next of kin" in the model lineup, he said. "You'll find the cars will become stronger in character and separated more from one another."
In addition to the X2, the other vehicles on van Hooydonk's list are the redesigned X4 and X5 crossovers, the new 8-series coupe, the redesigned 3-series sedan and the new X7 large SUV. While the X7 isn't slated to go on sale in the U.S. until early 2019, BMW will unveil the production version and start assembling it this year.
Differentiation is a clear goal. Some BMW critics have said consumer consideration for the brand's vehicles has suffered in part because of staid redesigns that failed to overhaul a vehicle's looks significantly.
"Or maybe you could say the competition changed more than we did," van Hooydonk said.
BMW in the past aimed to alternate bigger changes with smaller changes when it redesigned a model, he said. That meant every second model generation stood out more.
"In the world that we live in now, that's not enough," van Hooydonk said. "There is more competition now. The world has changed. It's faster pace. So our design needs to change faster as well."
Van Hooydonk's team plans to introduce something new and modern to the brand with each new or redesigned vehicle that comes out.
The X2, for example, carries BMW's signature kidney grill, but it's been flipped over. The grille and headlamp arrangement is one area where more differentiation among vehicles will happen, van Hooydonk said.
The X2's side view breaks the mold created with the larger X4 and X6 coupe-styled crossovers, he said.
One difference: the BMW roundel logo embedded in the C pillar. It brings back a styling move seen on vehicles such as the E9 3.0 CS back in the '70s.
"But we're doing it only on X2, by the way," van Hooydonk said, "because we wanted it as something for people to recognize this car by in traffic."
His team will show more examples in the redesigned X4 and X5, expected to be out later this year. The 8 series, which has been seen only in concept form, will be another big contributor to the new design approach.
"Everything that comes out from now going forward will play a big role," van Hooydonk said. "The 8 series is going to combine all of these elements in a very new shape."
BY: Automotive News