Maybe we’re all getting played, here. It’s been eight months since BMW unveiled its new 4 Series, and even now the controversial grille featured on that model and a selection of models released subsequently continues to make headlines. And any publicity is good publicity, so they say.
BMW’s head of design Domagoj Dukec and senior vice president Adrian van Hooydonk were recently interviewed on the topic. Both men acknowledged that there was some “friction” taking place between current and former BMW fans, but noted that — in the end — the distinctive new face is about standing out and, ultimately, increasing sales.
“If you want to create something that stands out, it must be distinguished and it has to be different. If you want to reach some customers, you have to stand out. It’s not our goal to please everyone in the world, but you have to please your customers. It all comes back to the customer,” Dukec told Autocar UK.
“There is some friction when your old product is so successful, and that’s what we’re seeing,” van Hooydonk added. “If your market success isn’t there, then you have to change. That’s a very stressful situation as a company. It’s better to have this kind of [controversy], even though it would be even better to have market success and universal praise for the changes.
“We’re broadening the choice we offer our customer. That’s the secret of selling more cars. You can’t sell more of the same.”
There’s a lot of truth to the claims made by Dukec and van Hooydonk. Too often the NZ Autocar office fields and sees complaints from punters about how ‘all new cars look the same’. Safety legislation and trends and focus groups have resulted in a lot of brands going down the same roads with design, and BMW’s new grille is undeniably its own.
However, it raises an interesting counterpoint when you compare this thinking to Hyundai’s new Ioniq 5, for example. Released overnight, the 5 looks nothing like any other Hyundai (or really any other car) and clearly represents a huge departure for the brand. Yet, it’s been received excellently.
If BMW is searching for examples that are closer to home, it need not look much further than its i3 and i8. Both of these cars well and truly underline Dukec and van Hooydonk’s points about standing out, but neither caused anywhere near the cyber vitriol. In fact the i8 is considered to be one of BMW’s most successful designs of recent times, and the i3 is a darling among critics for its oddball looks.
It looks like the tall, narrow grille format is here to stay, regardless. It’s since appeared on the new M3, M4, and iX. The next model set to land here is the 4 Series convertible, which is scheduled to land next month. Two specs will be offered locally — the 420i and M440i xDrive — priced starting from $96,900.