In 1959, the Suez Crisis led to oil shortages and the rise of fuel prices across the western world. British Motor Corporation responded by creating an economy car which was affordable and used little petrol. The Sir Alec Issigonis design for the original Mini was genius. The tiny motor car he invented for BMC could pack in more passengers than any other in its comparable size – and it was super-fun to drive too. The Boomers and young hip urbanites fell for its no-frills approach and go-kart drive. The Mini felt democratic; it was effortless and iconoclastic and starred in The Italian Job alongside thoroughly cool Michael Caine. It became and remains a symbol of 60s counterculture.
With the traditional motor car experiencing what only can be described as an existential crisis, modern MINI has a chance to become a symbol of the progressive 2020s. Maybe it can even become the future personal transport choice for gen Z. The MINI cars produced under BMW Group ownership in the last two decades are stylish products. They are good-looking, like the original they handle a little go-karty and don’t feel too elitist for urbanites. Yet I can’t help thinking there is something missing from the modern MINI formula. The marque could be so much more. Enter the MINI Vision Urbanaut, a shape-shifting electric vehicle that rethinks personal transport’s form and function, and it feels like the right direction for the brand.
Talking to the BMW Group creative director Adrian van Hooydonk earlier when the brand revealed its radical future vision under #NextGen, he told me: ‘MINI customers typically live in urban environments and I believe they are even more ready for electric drive and new ways of looking at mobility than perhaps our other brands. We can definitely go faster in this direction. The Vision Urbanaut shows how MINI can take our BMW iNext thoughts to another level. I think we can use MINI to push these concepts further.’
Take a closer look at the MINI Vision Urbanaut here Images above (c) Hartmut Nörenberg and below (c) MINI
BMW has revealed the iX, an electric production car for 2021 which previews the marque in the new age of transport. I caught up with Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president BMW Group design, who explains the progressive design and pioneering technology behind this flagship car. He discusses the possibilities of reinventing the marque in the post-Covid era. Read my exclusive interview here.
As head of BMW’s cultural engagement, Thomas Girst is deeply passionate about arts and ideas. He involves the company in some really interesting projects which not only help these artists and institutions – many of whom rely entirely on corporate sponsorship – but the partnerships also subtly boost BMW’s brand image externally and internally.
Of course, there’s always been a mutually seductive rapport between art and money – and BMW isn’t alone even among car companies to tap into the art world. Yet, not all sponsorships and patronages feel genuine. Some are so off the rail you do wonder who signed the cheque. Girst’s work, though, is different. His choices are relevant to the brand and are topical. They can also be daring – be it exploring the virtual real, the seducing powers of technology, or the plight of the refugee. The latest partnership looks at the climate crisis with Leelee Chan, the winner of the BMW Art Journey with Art Basel, examining how ancient materials and their future substitutes from the fields of nanotechnology and biotechnology inform our debate around ecological and cultural sustainability.
I spoke with Girst following the Art Journey announcement to see where he feels the art world is heading. And he spoke passionately about the vital need for corporations to sponsor and support the arts in the post-pandemic world. He also offered some valuable tips as to how businesses can best get involved with the creative world. Take a closer look here
It has been an interesting year for the motor car as the auto world navigates the post-petrol age. Whereas sustainable driving used to mean compromising on style and performance – think the awkward-looking G-Wiz – it appears we need not lose much, if anything, from the golden age of the motor car. As it happens, electric cars are an awful lot of fun to drive and the new mechanics allow for a great deal of creative imagination. Here are my top car designs of 2018.
Against the noise and pollution of modern industrial cities, a group of creatives, inventors, idealists are pioneering a new age of mobility. ‘The Current‘ by Gestalten takes a closer look at the conceptual studies and production cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and progressive movements leading the way. It is a lively episode in transport design. Take a closer look