Mike Stevens | Sep 29, 2010

Few automotive designers in recent years have had discussion of their work make the leap from enthusiast circles to the dining room.

It could be argued that Mike Simcoe, Holden hero and designer of the reborn Monaro is among the few, popular with Holden drivers both enthusiast and not.

Jaguar's Ian Callum would be another, but neither he nor Simcoe have had their names uttered with polarised praise and derision as much as Chris Bangle, BMW's global design boss between 1992 and 2009.

Love his work or hate it, Bangle's mind has had its influence not only at BMW, but across the automotive world. Take, for example, Ford's Iosis concept. As a preview for the company's new 'Kinetic' design language, the Iosis bears styling cues drawing on Bangle's 'flame surfacing' approach.

In a new video interview with Bangle, filmed during a recent visit to Australia, Bangle talks of the challenges faced by all automotive designers; corporate obstacles, public criticism, and even their own reluctance to explore every possibility.

"The marketing guys you have to keep a little bit at bay, because their first reaction is always 'no, no, no, no'. You can't create life under an atmosphere of 'no'," Bangle says.

"In my job as design chief, I'm going to open all your drawers and I'm going to ask 'what have you got stashed away that you're not doing? What is it that you want to do that somebody's not letting you do, or that you don't have the courage to do?"

Whatever might be said of Bangle's time at BMW, it could be argued that his design direction played a not-insignificant role in BMW overtaking Mercedes-Benz in global sales.

Interestingly, as BMW's new design boss Adrian van Hooydonk turns the heat down on the company's design language with the X1 and the new 5 Series, Mercedes is applying the oxy torch to its own styling - take the new CLS as an example.

Bangle has remained tight-lipped about how he is currently spending his days. Early last year, after leaving BMW and retiring from automotive design, he confirmed that he would look to open his own design studio.

Little has been seen from the enigmatic American in the nearly two years since.

[video source: InFrame.tv]

Follow Mike Stevens on Google+