Chris Bangle, through his design consultancy Chris Bangle Associates (CBA), is set to make his long-awaited public reappearance into the car design sphere with the debut of a new car project called REDSPACE.
We received an invitation to the REDSPACE’s official unveiling confirming the car’s debut at the preeminent Art Center College of Design, the university from which Bangle graduated. Though not much is known about the project at this time, I’m certainly betting on it drawing massive media frenzy.
As deduced from the invitation, CBA’s new car was developed in collaboration with China Hi-Tech new Energy Automobile Co. (CHTC Motors), a company that specializes in the production and sales of new energy vehicles. Focused on R&D, CHTC Motors has apparently been in business delivering ‘innovative mobility solutions’ since 1998.
The CBA/CHTC ‘REDSPACE’ project is an electric vehicle targeting affluent young career professionals who live in China’s megacities, a burgeoning market. It’s also been developed in partnership with aerodynamics experts Exa Corp., a company that has undoubtedly addressed some of the key issues associated with improving range and performance issues faced by electric propulsion.
The cabin — suitable for living, working and playing — is where the design process began. Bangle is quoted as saying it is a “space that decided to become a car”.
Exactly what form this vehicle will take is unclear but — judging by Bangle’s past comments (see video above) imploring that car design get out of the self-imposed rut and envisage original solutions for the changing needs of consumers in the vehicle and mobility landscape — this will be far from a conventional three-box sedan.
“My definition of really good car design is endeavor,” Bangle said during our video interview three years ago. He then used a wonderfully descriptive analogy: “You don’t get to the South Pole by going two feet further than the guy last year, you’ve got to really give it your all, or die in the attempt.”
Having worked as a consultant with Bangle on a few projects in the last six years, this is an all-encompassing view; a common thread that not only defines his work ethic but himself personally. He encourages people to think up creative solutions that occasionally take them out of their comfort zones; he actively promotes new thinking; he wants to see designers push boundaries to elicit positive change.
In a recent article published by Automotive News, Bangle shed some light on the new vehicle, stating that the company wanted to build “a small car”. He also said his collaboration with CHTC was contingent their ability to allow him to “seriously pose questions and answer those questions with a lot of guts and courage.”
Bangle’s visionary design statements (public examples in the form of the E60 BMW 5 Series, E65 7 Series and E85 Z4 come to mind) clearly showcased his guts and courage. During his tenure as head of BMW Group Design, he turned the industry on its head and drew criticism as well as praise. Everyone had an opinion. What’s important is what followed: other carmakers.
Once considered controversial, many elements began appearing on competitor products. He not only influenced a generation of cars from Bavaria, but also had an impact in Aichi, Detroit and Shanghai. Even those that don’t normally have a thought about car design have called him a prophet.
The REDSPACE project will undoubtedly have the same effect when it is unveiled next week. And we’ll be sure to bring you the full story.
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