Adrian Van Hooy­donk In­ter­view 4

Automobile - - Design -

WE TALKED WITH Adrian Van Hooy­donk at the Paris Mon­di­ale de l’Au­to­mo­bile, where the new­est BMW 3 Se­ries was in­tro­duced. He has been BMW Group head of de­sign since 2009, hav­ing joined the com­pany di­rectly af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Art Cen­ter Col­lege of De­sign-Europe 27 years ago. He spoke of a new wave of prod­ucts com­ing from BMW, six cars in the next 12 months, and of “a new chap­ter in form lan­guage, cleaner and crisper.” He also stressed that the in­ten­tion is to move the BMW “num­berseries” ranges farther apart from each other vis­ually so that the old Mu­nich idea of “one sausage, dif­fer­ent lengths” will truly be a thing of the past. Given that there are eight ba­sic se­ries num­bers and a cou­ple of i-se­ries cars, that’s go­ing to be a big job.

“The 3 Se­ries is the core of the brand,” Van Hooy­donk says, so this lat­est re­lease may well rep­re­sent a guide to what is com­ing. “The 5 Se­ries is the au­to­bahn car, big­ger and more com­fort­able, but it still looks com­pact.” For the new car’s in­te­rior, “We cleaned it up a lot. It’s all dig­i­tal now, and we’re into the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion of our user in­ter­face.” Us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence,

BMW has changed the user in­ter­face. “You can now talk to the sys­tem in nat­u­ral lan­guage, not just strict, rote com­mands,” Van Hooy­donk ex­plains. “The sys­tem even has a sense of hu­mor.” So if you ask it, “What’s your fa­vorite an­i­mal,” it re­sponds, “I like all large mam­mals. Ex­cept Jaguars.” A very Ger­man sense of hu­mor, to be sure.

Van Hooy­donk talks about the ef­forts in terms of what he calls “shy tech, in­stead of high tech,” mean­ing that a lot of what goes on is hid­den from view and is ac­ces­si­ble with­out hav­ing to learn a whole new way of in­ter­act­ing with the car and its sys­tems. That’s all to the good, but what re­mains im­por­tant to many cus­tomers, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, is still more re­lated to the steer­ing wheel and the throt­tle pedal than to elec­tron­ics. And there are still a lot of de­sign­ers and engi­neers in the com­pany who ap­par­ently feel the same way. AM

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