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Lincoln Claims MKZ Production Finally Up to Normal

Supply crisis short-circuited critical sedan’s launch.

by on Mar.25, 2013

The new Lincoln MKZ should reach normal levels of inventory in the coming weeks.

It was billed as the most important product new product roll-out in decades for Lincoln, the 2013 MKZ expected to anchor a wave of new products designed to put the long-suffering domestic luxury brand back on the map.

But things didn’t go right almost for the start for the new sedan, parent Ford Motor Co. putting the brakes on production in a bid to head off troubling signs of potential quality problems. The result was a crash-and-burn that instead of kick-starting Lincoln sales saw them fall to a 32-year low.

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But the maker finally appears to be back on track, a senior official has advised, with production now on a fast increase that should soon see plenty of 2013 Lincoln MKZ sedans in dealer showrooms.


Lincoln Gets Dedicated Design Center

Collaboration “the order of the day, not the exception.”

by on Oct.19, 2012

A clay model at the new Lincoln Design Studio.

Ford Motor Co. has opened a dedicated Lincoln Design Center in Dearborn, Michigan, part of its effort to put the long-struggling brand back on track as a true competitor to marques like BMW, Lexus – and even the resurgent cross-town competitor Cadillac.

The new design center and studio will house approximately 150 designers, craftspeople and engineers dedicated solely to Lincoln production and concept vehicles, Ford said.  It also marks the first time in 40 years that all the disciplines required to develop a new vehicle for Ford’s up-market brand, both creative and technical, will work collaboratively in one space.

Setting up the new design center is all part of Ford’s efforts to reinvent the Lincoln brand, executives said. Once a serious competitor to Cadillac as dominant players in the U.S. market, Lincoln has become a weak second-tier nameplate – and one with virtually no presence outside North America.

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Ford hopes to change that situation by rolling out more stylized, technically sophisticated products – including an all-new version of the Lincoln MKZ coming for 2013. It has an assortment of additional models under development but industry observers warn that Lincoln now has to prove it has a unique identity and isn’t just a marketing operation for slightly more up-market versions of vehicles sold by the mainstream Ford “Blue Oval” brand.

A 2013 Lincoln MKZ shown with the brand's design director Max Wolff.


Zagato Roadster – is This the New Look at BMW?

New 2-seater follows Zagato-designed BMW Coupe.

by on Aug.17, 2012

The work of an "intense" 6-week collaboration, the BMW Zagato Roadster comes to Pebble Beach.

Is this the new look for BMW?  Just three months after the maker revealed the striking Coupe it designed in a collaboration with Italian design house Zagato it unveiled the new BMW Zagato Roadster during the long weekend’s celebration of automotive elegance in Pebble Beach.

The partners reveal that the Roadster was pulled together during an intense six-week push.  It helped, of course, to start out with the same basic BMW Z4 platform that was use for the BMW Zagato Coupe unveiled at the Concorso Ville d’Este in May.

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“We set ourselves the challenge of preparing the car in time for the renowned Pebble Beach Concours, explains Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s global design chief. “It was only with the expertise of both companies in the manufacture of high-end one-off cars and another display of outstanding teamwork that we were able to finish the car on schedule,”

The Roadster on display.


BMW Bringing 2nd Zagato Concept to Pebble Beach

Roadster concept to compliment earlier Zagato Coupe.

by on Aug.16, 2012

BMW teams with Zagato on a second concept, this one to make its formal debut in Pebble Beach.

Mere months after revealing the results of their first new collaboration in decades, BMW is getting ready to roll out a second concept it has developed in a collaboration with the legendary Zagato design house.

The maker isn’t saying much about the show car, other than promising to reveal full details and the show car itself during a presentation at the weekend’s tony Pebble Beach Concours.  While it’s not expected to make the jump to production, the two Zagato studies are expected to have a significant influence on BMW’s future design direction, especially in the roadster and small coupe segments.

BMW and Zagato have long had on-and-off-ties and they rekindled their relationship with the unveiling of the first concept coupe at Italy’s equally prestigious Concorso Villa d’Este, in May.

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The only surviving independent coachbuilder in Italy, Zagato turned both projects over to chief designer Norihiko Harada to develop the new look for BMW.  While the grainy image seen here doesn’t reveal much it suggests that there are likely to be some distinct differences from the double-bubble approach that Harada crafted for the Villa d’Este version – beyond the fact that the new concept is a 2-door roadster.


Bangle Given Lifetime Achievement Award

Controversial former BMW design chief honored.

by on Jul.17, 2012

Chris Bangle, shown with his design team during his years at BMW.

He is one of the most influential designers of the last two decades – and one of the most controversial.  All of which added up to a Lifetime Achievement Award for Chris Bangle, the former BMW styling boss that gave the world the notorious “Bangle-butt.”

The annual Design Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Bangle this week during the annual Eyes on Design Automotive gala, the capper to a weekend event that focuses specifically on styling. And controversial as he might have been, there are few that would argue that Bangle didn’t have a significant impact on the shape of the modern automobile.

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“Chris was constantly exploring new ideas and innovations in design, as seen in the GINA concept,” noted Alec Bernstein, director of advanced communications, BMW DesignWorks USA.

Now running his own design studio in Turin, Italy, the 55-year-old Bangle became BMW’s first American design chief in 1992, quickly creating a splash with the Z9 Gran Turismo concept.  Few designers seemed more willing – or ready — to relish controversy, Bangle either penning or overseeing a series of distinctive and often debated products during his 17 years with the Bavarian maker.

But arguably no model generated more controversy than the 7-Series, known internally as the E65.  BMW was an also-ran in the premium luxury segment and had decided it was time to tackle rival Mercedes-Benz’s dominant S-Class.  The new 7-er was bigger, bolder – and featured such unusual design elements as its hooded headlights and huge decklid – which critics quickly dubbed the Bangle-butt.

Initial reaction was anything but positive.  Sales slipped sharply and Time declared the new 7-Series one of the “50 Worst Cars of All Time.”  But after a slow start the demand began to click, eventually becoming the best-selling 7-Series ever.  It ultimately helped BMW overtake its Stuttgart rival to become the best-selling luxury automotive brand.

Of course, that’s just one of the more distinctive designs to emerge from the BMW studios under Bangle’s reign.  He also brought forth the Z3 roadster and its successor, the Z4 – as well as another love-it-or-leave-it design, the Z Coupe.

Bangle introduced the concept of “flame surfacing” to BMW, allowing the maker to use the latest computer technology to create distinctive, if not always elegant, compound surface curves and bold design elements like the 7-Series’ rear deck.  A student of industrial design and architecture, Bangle has often pointed to Frank Gehry as one of his strong influences.

Martin Smith, a senior designer with Ford, suggests Bangle has steered automotive stylists to provide more “surface entertainment.”

Patrick le Quement, of Renault, meanwhile, suggests that Bangle’s “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.”

Whichever side of the debate one falls on, however, it is clear that Bangle continues to have an influence on automotive design even after leaving BMW to work on his own.

Hyundai Snatches Design Chief from BMW

Underscores Korean maker’s styling shift.

by on Dec.28, 2011

Long-time BMW designer Chris Chapman will now head Hyundai's California design center.

Hyundai has pulled off a styling coup.  The maker has snatched Christopher Chapman, one of BMW’s more promising designers – to head the Korean maker’s Design Center in Irvine, California.

Chapman replaces Philip Zak, who left Hyundai last spring to rejoin the General Motors’ design staff. In his new position, Chapman will be responsible for new vehicle and concept designs for Hyundai – which has built much of its recent rise on cutting-edge styling with products like the midsize Sonata and compact Elantra.

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“With over 22 years of experience in the industry working on esteemed automotive brands, Chris provides a level of talent that will help further our design portfolio,” said Suk Geun Oh, Head of Design, Senior Executive Vice President Hyundai Design Center.


New Boss for BMW Designworks

U.S. operation designs everything from cars to computers.

by on Oct.15, 2009

New boss at BMW's California-based DesignworksUSA, which designs everything from cars to computer graphics.

Schaffer takes over a renowned operation with 135 designers.

Say the name, BMW, and you’re likely to have an image of a sleek German car come to mind, whether a compact 3-Series, luxurious 7-er, or perhaps a big X5 Sport Activity Vehicle.  But there’s another side to the company, one tucked into the hills outside Los Angeles, where BMW designers are busy at work styling everything from sunglasses to laptop computers.

Established by design legend Chuck Pelly, back in 1972, DesignworksUSA was acquired by the Bavarian automaker in 1995, and has served not only as a source of revenue but also a training ground for some of BMW’s best and brightest designers, including Adrian van Hooydonk, now the corporation’s top style-meister.

A little more than a month from now, Designworks will get a new boss, Laurenz Schaffer, who’d been working at a Munich subsidiary of the design consulting operation for the last nine years.

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The 42-year-old stylist has worked not only in Munich, but also in Stuttgart and San Francisco, over the last two decades.  He’ll be taking over an operation with 135 design specialists and support teams, at an operation that has worked with clients as diverse as Siemens, Starbucks, Sony and Microsoft.  Designworks has helped sculpt yachts, designed interiors for business jets, and crafted mobile phones.  Reflecting the increasingly digital nature of the world, the BMW subsidiary has also developed graphic displays for Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, among others.