By —MATT DAVIS & BOB GRITZINGER/ AUTOWEEK
(Photo)Reports are surfacing that Chris Bangle will move on after 11 years as BMW design maestro.
AS WE AWAIT THE 2004 Geneva motor show at the start of March, what’s happening in the tightknit world of car design may prove the most interesting show news of all.
Prominent automotive designer Ken Okuyama is leaving his position as head of Art Center College of Design’s prestigious Transportation Design Studio in Pasadena, California, to return to his former employer, Pininfarina. Art Center officials confirm that Okuyama will be leaving his post in August to take a position at the company where he previously served as lead designer on projects such as the Pininfarina Rossa, Ferrari Enzo and Maserati Quattroporte, among others. Okuyama had left Turin, Italy, to take the California job in August 2000.
Pininfarina is saying only that there are three candidates for this enhanced design director post, that Okuyama is one of these and that a final decision will be made next week. We hear, however, that by this September Okuyama will be back as design guru at Pininfarina, a company never accustomed to hiring “star” designers. This and the hiring of Frank Stephenson as styling overseer at Ferrari-Maserati in late 2001—the first time for such a role in Maranello—signal a dramatic shift in Italian thinking.
In other hot Euro-designer news, reports are surfacing that soon after the Geneva motor show launch of the BMW 1 Series, Chris Bangle will move on after 11 years as BMW design maestro. But rather than leaving, Bangle reportedly will move up a spot to be in charge of design for all of BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mini. If that occurs, someone will be hired to take Bangle’s spot in BMW design, and many of the rustlings stem directly from the prospect of the choice BMW design post being available. So far, BMW declines comment.
Rest assured, some or all of this will be answered by the time we leave the Geneva show.