Christopher Edward Bangle (born October 14, 1956) is an American automobile designer. Bangle is known best for his work as Chief of Design for BMW Group, where he was responsible for the BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce motor cars.
He was born in Ravenna, Ohio, and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin. After considering becoming a Methodist minister, Bangle attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California to pursue his automobile designer career.
He became the first American chief of design of BMW in 1992, where he designed the Z9 Gran Turismo concept car. His styling themes have generated intense controversy among automotive designers, and have often had a polarizing effect.
On February 3, 2009, Bangle announced that he was to quit both his position at BMW and the auto industry altogether, to focus on his own design-related endeavours. He will be replaced by Adrian van Hooydonk.
Bangle's designs are incorporated in the entire BMW lineup, including the 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 series as well as the X3, X5, and X6 SUVs. These span the automotive platforms E81 / E82 / E87 / E88, E90 / E91 / E92 / E93, E60 / E61, E63 / E64 ,E65 / E66 and E53. The designs have caused widespread controversy and have divided BMW enthusiasts who either love them or hate them. His designs have also influenced other car makers.
The most controversial of his work was the E65 7 Series, a sharp contrast to the preceding E38 generation which was conservatively styled. Time magazine named it as one of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time for its rear end styling and iDrive functionality, although it appears that this did not have a detrimental effect on sales.
Motor Trend's article Interview: Chris Bangle, BMW's Design Chief says:
Love or loathe his work, Bangle's impact on auto design has been profound. No other designer, not even legendary GM design chief Harley Earl, has so rapidly become a part of the industry lexicon. To "bangle" a design is now an auto-industry verb for ruining it. Auto writers use "Bangle butt" to describe a tail with an extra layer of metal on the trunk (think new Mercedes S-Class). Bangle, some rivals will remind you, is only one letter away from "bungle."
Despite those criticisms, Bangle's distinctive designs yielded strong commercial success for BMW. In 2006, BMW overtook Mercedes as the global leader in premium car sales. BMW will continue to use Bangle's current design cues at least through 2010.
Bangle aggressively defended his designs against criticism. He was supported by the BMW board of directors, which wanted to move BMW's image into the future. He said it was necessary for product lines to follow a cycle of a revolutionary generation followed by an evolutionary generation followed by another revolutionary generation and so on. Indeed, he oversaw the conservative evolution of BMW designs with the redesign of the BMW 3-Series BMW E46 and the introduction of the BMW X5. For Bangle this marked the end of the evolution of BMW design and the revolution was witnessed with the 2002 introduction of the BMW E65. Bangle acknowledges that his designs do not look good in photographs, suggesting to critics that they should see the cars in real life before judging them on their looks. He introduced a new BMW concept car, called GINA on June 10, 2008.
- J Mays, Ford's chief creative officer, dislikes Bangle's designs, but admits Bangle has been significant in reshaping modern cars.
- Marc Newson, an industrial designer and car enthusiast, described Bangle's BMW Z4 as having been designed with a machete.
- Patrick le Quément, chief designer at Renault, said: "[Bangle is] certainly the most talked about designer. His designs have a great deal of presence, and they're well proportioned. He's been highly influential. My only concern is his use of concave surfaces: they're hollow shapes and lack that tightly muscled look I feel helps design."
- Martin Smith, head of design for Ford of Europe, describes Bangle as an instigator of the trend toward "surface entertainment" in cars; the Ford Iosis bears some resemblance to Bangle-styled BMWs but it was not criticized as much as Bangle's designs.
- Green, Gavin. motor trend "Interview: Chris Bangle, BMW's Design Chief"]. Motor Trend. http://www.motortrend.com/features/112_0601_chris_bangle_bmw_design_chief/index.html motor trend]. Retrieved on 2008-09-24.
- Chris Bangle quits BMW and the auto industry
- "Interview: Chris Bangle, BMW's Design Chief, page 3". Motor Trend. http://www.motortrend.com/features/consumer/112_0601_chris_bangle_bmw_design_chief/index2.html. Retrieved on 2007-08-31.