I sat down with BMW's Head of Design Adrian van Hooydonk at the Geneva Motor Show. We chatted about the BMW i cars and X6Ms wearing the same logo, smaller Minis, and the future of the brand. One thing was clear: BMW plans to go all the way with carbon fiber. But it's going to take a while.
To be honest, I couldn't get much out him in this round. I was mostly interested in the next i car, but his PR skills shown through and he deftly dodged my questions.
Instead, he told me Mini will launch something like the Clubman Concept soon enough, while BMW's interiors will be more minimal, with cleaner lines thanks to all the advanced touch-sensitive materials, screens, and intelligent voice control. It would also like to make a 3 Series entirely out of carbon fiber because it's safe, light, and that's the way forward according to their lightweight strategy. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen anytime soon.
Aside from the obvious issues with cost, speed is the biggest barrier. While i3s and i8s are indeed the first carbon fiber cars made in volume, it's still impossible to get even close to 3 Series production figures using their current methods, let alone the entire lineup's.
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It's an interesting comment though, as these huge strategic decisions determine what an automaker does decades in the future. Just look at Audi.
After Ferdinand Piëch decided that aluminum is the new steel in 1983, it took them more than 10 years to put the "Audi Space Frame" into production beginning with the A8 in 1994. Audi's been at it ever since, advancing towards the combination of aluminum and composites to reduce weight even further.
Jaguar Land Rover also went for aluminum after their breakup with Ford, while Volvo based its new lineup on the strongest steels money can buy.
Setting up the electric brand was no cheap exercise for BMW, but once it spends even more to use carbon fiber as its core material – instead of just making surprisingly heavy M cars slightly lighter – there's no turning back.
Now, imagine an M4 made with a carbon chassis. It's would be better at drifting than an i8, that's for sure.
In other news, Adrian van Hooydonk's favorite classic BMW was made of very thin steel, aluminum and plastic windows.
An obvious choice, I know, but a fine one nevertheless.
Photo credit: BMW