Dear 001,

Just read this and thought you would appreciate it...considering you were the ONLY site with the guts to break this story, months before all the magazines on the ad take, would finally fess up to...

From Top Gear, June 2004 issue

"Our new design was wrong." - BMW Boss's Shock Admission

You knew it, we knew it, anyone with any taste new it - BMW's 7-series is horrible. Now it seems BMW knows it too.

BMW has finally admitted what everyone in the car world has long known: the current 7-series is a disaster. In an interview with American business magazine Fortune, Helmut Panke, BMW's chairman, said: "I admit the intensity of the public debate over our new design (which began with the 7-series) did suprise me. There are still too many articles focusing on 'I wish this car looked different blah, blah, blah.' The 7-series was a combination of completely new technology with new design direction. The key point is that we should never make big steps in strategic directions without preparing our customers."

Panke is the first BMW executive to publicly acknowlege what many Munich insiders have privately been saying about the 7-series - that BMW made a big mistake in launching Chris Bangle's new design direction and the complex i-Drive system at the same time in the most conservative sector of the market with no explanation.

Panke's comments have been greeted with relief in Munich. "It's a weight off everyone's shoulders," one insider said. "Panke has finally said what we all knew but could not say - that we tried to do too much, too soon with the 7-series and we did it in the wrong market. We were too far ahead of the audience and lost a lot of goodwill. It was a real own goal that has overshadowed the launch of the very good cars that have followed the 7-Series."

Panke's admission is part of a new PR approach by BMW. As sales of the Z4, the new 5-series and the 6-series rise, BMW execs are admitting past failings. At a recent private dinner in Spain, one senionr BMW board member told jounalists that BMW had done "an absolutely lousy job" of explaining the firm's new design and its minimalist cabin controls.

Even Chris Bangle himself has admitted making mistakes - although not when it comes to design. At a recent lecture at the Design Museum in London, he said: "Did we move in the right direction with design? Yes. Could we have done more to explain what we were doing and why? Yes."

Privately, Bangle believes that the BMW board were too slow to wake up to the scale of his design changes. They failed to explain his new modernist style and when it became clear that customers loved the 7-Series' performance but hated the looks and i-Drive, they acted too slowly to address the concerns.

The top-of-the-range 7-Series was launched two years ago. In spite of the chorus of criticism it attracted and sluggish sales - in particular in BMW's core German market - BMW insisted customers would learn to love it. However, last year executives rushed through a facelift designed to smooth the car's sharp edges, reduce its bulky profile and soften the clunky bootlid.

The new 7-Series will be unveiled later this year. BMW hopes its launch will mark the end of one of the most awkward chapters in the company's history."

Auto Spies perspective: The issue isn't the fact that it's wrong anymore, it's that they just need to learn from it and fix it...We give Panke a lot of credit for his courage! Lesson learned? Contemporary style is a fad that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. This time, it didn't. The fix? A more contemporary interpretation of the traditional designs that will stand the test of time. BMW has one of the most talented design teams on earth (and that includes Bangle!). They'll be back and we'll be the first in line for the new one...Hey, we bought three of these and we didn't even like it! And they say we're not fans of BMW...NOT!

About the Author