Interview with Adrian van Hooydonk, head of design at BMW

Head of design at BMW, Adrian van Hooydonk opens up to ZigWheels Editor-in-Chief Adil Jal Darukhanawala, at the 2012 Concorso d'Eleganza and speaks candidly about BMW's design philosophy and the Z4 Zagato Concept

Adrian van Hooydonk interview



Adil Jal Darukhanawala (AJD): Big departure for doing such a vehicle for BMW...


Adrian van Hooydonk (AVH): Maybe... it’s been a while since BMW has worked with Italian Carrozzerias. Some of our most famous cars were done by Carrozzeria Touring – the Mille Miglia Roadster. There is a little history with Michelotti and a little bit of history with Guigiaro. But it’s been a while. And I feel that it’s just a sign of strength of the brand. We’re doing quite well as a company, and I think it’s also time to give something back to the car world as a whole. An event like this is of course nice to look at all the classic cars, but I believe that we have a very good generation of car designers right now, and we want to contribute. A car like this is a one off in the true tradition of the Concorso d'Eleganza and in 50 years from now, for example, this is a car that will show up. If we don’t do projects like this, what would people look at 50 years from now. The 3-Series, i think, is a beautiful car, but we make quite a lot of them and that is probably not what will be seen at this kind of events. So we need to do something special like this.


AJD: Tell me one thing, you’re going on to new markets – India, where I come from, is a big market. How do you think the aesthetics of the car appeal to people in emerging markets which are new to BMW?


AVH: I think now the world is a very connected place. So from what I know, I travel quite a lot and wherever I go, people seem to know BMW quite well. Sometimes I go to countries and people know me, even if I’ve never been there.




Adrian van Hooydonk with the BMW Zagato Concept Coupe




AJD: (laughs) It’s like James Bond. You’re reputation precedes you.


AVH: (laughs) Maybe... So I think a combination like this is the icing on the cake. It is the haute couture of car design and it doesn’t necessarily have to influence the design we do. We have a very strong design team ourselves and I think we know where we’re going. But like I said, something like this has to do with the history of the Carrozzeria, which we are actually able to support in this manner.


AJD: Do you think this car has a production future, or will you let it be just a Carrozzeria one-off, with an aim for Concorso 50 years from now?


AVH: I don’t really know the answer to that right now. We just launched the car today and we’re gauging the reactions. But for me, it would be a great story if we make 500 or 1000 of these cars, because then it will not just be a one-off. It’ll still be very rare. Even though BMW has over 3000 dealerships around the world, it will be a car which is a very rare sight around the world, but it would still be a car that people would drive. If it remains a one-off, then it goes into the museum, which this one probably will do. But cars are made to be driven and I know this one drives well.


AJD: And it sounds beautiful...


AVH: Thank you...



BMW Z4 Zagato Concept



AJD: How much of that emotion goes into it, that as a designer you want to see poetry in motion, but you also want to be heard? And a lot of modern cars are very soft, or they’re dumbed down in that case. 


AVH: It also depends on the type of car. I’m also responsible for the design of the Rolls-Royce. And a Rolls-Royce you don’t hear, it’s not important. We don’t even have a rev counter in a Rolls-Royce, it’s not important. It’s a different story. But in this car of course, it looks like it will move, and the sound is an important part of it, and we designed the exhaust especially to make that sound.


AJD: It’s very important that you mentioned Rolls-Royce, because if you see the first 50 years of the last century, almost one-third of all Rolls-Royce production came to India. 


AVH: Yes... All the Maharajas used to buy them...


AJD: They used to buy cars like popcorn. It’s fantastic history. And that one big Rolls-Royce we saw today – it was a Maharaja car. It was the Maharaja of Nanpara’s car. So there’s quite a lot of history there. But how do you marry your thoughts here like this on to your small cars, the electric Vision that you’ve got going now?


AVH: We, I think, came up with a new form language for our new mobility cars, the i3 and the i8. You still have the precision and the sharpness of a BMW. But these cars look light, they look aerodynamic, because they are. And they look very futuristic. And that future is starting next year. That’s why we wanted to make something special, because we believe that is a big step in terms of technology and that would warrant a big step in terms of design as well.








AJD: For you, what moves you, petrol or electric?


AVH: Everything... because i know driving a car or a motorcycle, moving at speed and controlling this machine – that is the thing that moves us. It’s always fun. We will always make products that are fun to use and our customers like this. And I’ve already learned that an electric car is quite fast. You have all the power instantly, so you can have a lot of driving fun with that. And a car like the i8 is going to be truly special, because it will have the performance of an M3, and the fuel consumption of a small car. And there is no combination like that on the market.


AJD: Have you tackled the problem of range and the capacity of the batteries? Do you think you’ll be able to get away from them? Because those are the two bugbears for the electric cars.


AVH: I think technology will progress. I know that with the battery sizes we have now, we can offer very decent range - 150km for the i3. It will be more for the i8 because it is a plug-in hybrid. And then batteries will only get smaller and there will be more energy stored in the batteries. It is something that of course we’re investigating along with suppliers and we’re very confident that now is the time to start this kind of mobility, and it will only get better.


AJD: Thank you Adrian, all the very best to you.



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