Last month’s news of head of MINI design Anders Warming’s precipitate and unexplained departure from BMW as was a shock to the industry comparable to Chris Bangle’s exit in 2009.
That may be as nothing compared with the news of his new appointment as Borgward AG’s Board of Management member responsible for Design, to begin on 1 January 2017. He is belatedly reversing the trend begun by Wilhelm Heinrich Gieschen, Karl Monz, and numerous others who took the one-way journey south from Bremen in the early 1960’s to create the new BMW in Borgward’s image. Except of course, neue Borgward is headquartered in Stuttgart, and answers to Beijing.
There are inevitable comparisons to be made with Gert Volker Hildebrand, who went from MINI to Qoros. Hildebrand was responsible for the only BMW MINI I find appealing or clever, the original Clubman, but his career had peaked some time before he joined Qoros in 2011 at the age of 58.
Regrettably the charming four and a half door Clubman has recently been replaced by something visually challenging and bizarrely marketed:
I have no enthusiasm for Warming’s gross Clubman, but the 43 year old Dane’s career is impressive: Art Center College of Design in Pasadena from 1992 to 1996, VAG Design Centre Europe 2003-05, head of BMW Exterior Design and Team Leader Advanced Design at the BMW Group before being appointed Head of Design at MINI in 2010.
If nothing else, the appointment suggests deep pockets at BAIC Foton, and notions of achieving at Borgward something akin to the Schreyer effect at Kia. Borgward have started well; the exterior and interior design of the BX7, BX5, and BX6 is derivative and short on subtlety, but it is competent and literate.
Anders should at least have more of a free hand than he was permitted at MINI. The goitred Countryman, and the UKL-platformed cars make a nonsense of the brand’s name. They’re bloated cars, unloved by motoring’s chattering classes, but which nevertheless sell in healthy numbers because they meet a need nothing else quite does, and even make BMW a modest profit.
Borgward new design chief deserves the best of good luck. If he runs short of inspiration, he might do well to look at Borgward’s 1952 Hansa 1500 Rennsport, oddly prescient of the MINI, yet from the year in which Greek Al went into self-imposed exile at Alvis: