Christopher Edward Bangle (born on 14 October, 1956 in Ravenna, Ohio), is an American automobile designer. He is a former Chief of Design for BMW group, responsible for design strategy and conception across all BMW's brands including Mini and Rolls Royce.
Bangle was raised in Wisconsin, and after considering becoming a Methodist Minister <ref>Motor Trend</ref>, attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
Bangle began his career at Opel where he designed the interior of the Junior concept car. He later moved to Fiat where he became chief designer and was credited with the design of the angular Fiat Coupé.
When he joined BMW in 1992, he had little complete-car track record, and became their first American chief of design. The 1999 Z9 concept car marked a departure from BMW's traditional conservative style, and his latter work has caused some controversy among BMW enthusiasts. But his designs have sold, and after being replaced as Chief Designer of BMW by Dutch protégé Adrian van Hooydonk <ref>LA Times</ref>, Bangle became the Chief of Design for the whole BMW Group, including Mini and Rolls Royce.
Designs which Bangle has overseen include the 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series, 7 Series and Z4 roadster. These designs deviate from BMW's usual, more conservative muscular styling, which emphasized functional, rigid, straight-line forms. The 1-Series and Z4 especially have more sculpted appearances and curved lines. Among BMW fans, the consensus seems to be "love it or hate it" <ref>Stop Chris Bangle</ref>. Motor Trend even has stopped referring to new BMWs chiefly as such and instead prefers to use the term "Bangles", because of the radical changes in the cars. Bangle himself coined the phrase "flame surfacing" to describe his work; he notes Deconstructivist architect Frank Gehry's work as an influence.
Despite the general new appearances, however, Bangle has respected several long-standing BMW traditions, including the company-trademark twin-kidney grille, quadruple headlights, and the Hofmeister kink. Proponents of Bangle's designs say that the new design direction represents a move into the future for normally stolid and conservative BMWs.
Despite the controversy surrounding Bangle's work, a few automakers have emulated some of his design elements. For example, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class came out with a Bangle style trunk and several Toyotas (notably the Avalon and Camry) have utilized his "Bangle-butt" design cues. The new-for-2007 Lexus LS also bears some resemblance to the BMW 7-series.
Bangle is not shy about defending his designs. He has the backing of the BMW board of directors, who wanted to move BMW's image into the future. Bangle argues that it is necessary for product lines to follow a cycle of one revolutionary generation followed by an evolutionary generation followed by another revolutionary generation and so on. Indeed, he oversaw the last conservative wave of BMW designs with the redesign of the BMW 3-Series BMW E46 and the introduction of the BMW X5. For Bangle this marked the end of the evolution of a wave of BMW design and the 2002 7-series revolution was initiated with the 2002 introduction of the BMW E65. Bangle acknowledges that his designs do not look good in photographs, suggesting to critics that they should see the cars in real life before judging them on their looks.
- J Mays, Ford's global design guru is no fan, but admits Bangle has been significant in reshaping modern cars.
- Marc Newson, an industrial designer and car enthusiast described Bangle's BMW Z4 as having been designed with a machete <ref>Motor Trend</ref>
- Patrick Le Quement, design boss of Renault said that Bangle is "certainly the most talked about designer. His designs have a great deal of presence, and they're well proportioned. He's been highly influential. My only concern is his use of concave surfaces: they're hollow shapes and lack that tightly muscled look I feel helps design."
- Martin Smith, former GM Europe design chief, now head of design for Ford of Europe talks of Bangle as an instigator of the trend toward "surface entertainment" in cars. The Ford Iosis concept shows that Smith buys into that idea.