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BMW Designers Still ‘Love’ Sedans and Aren’t Giving Up on Them Anytime Soon

BMW's design boss says "certain things will always stay familiar," even as the world demands more and more electric SUVs.

Nearly two out of three BMWs sold in the U.S. are SUVs and crossovers but don’t expect the automaker to give up on the shape that made it famous more than 50 years ago. That’s what Head of BMW Design Domagoj Dukec told me last month when I previewed its concept sedan, i Vision Dee, unveiled Wednesday in Las Vegas at CES. We get the hint he doesn’t want to drive the blob, either.

“Why not? You could do something different to say, ‘I am different,’” he said. “But the sedan shape is not linked to a combustion engine. It’s just because it’s the most efficient shape around passengers. We link the past, BMW has always done a three-box sedan. We want to show our customers if the world is changing, we’ll adapt. But certain things will always stay familiar. We [don’t] have to do it, but we love it.”

The BMW i Vision Dee is admittedly more about what’s inside the car rather than the design outside, but all the hallmarks are: BMW’s Hoffmeister kink and twin kidney grilles are reproduced in e-Ink outside. The e-Ink kink could let owners know the state of charge of the car from the outside, for example, or the kidney grilles could wink at passersby. Sure. 

Part of Dee’s brutally minimalistic design aesthetic isn’t to give anything away about the Neue Klasse, which should arrive in the middle of the decade. But also, Dee’s clean-sheet look is meant to ditch unnecessary elements that add complexity without value. Dukec pointed to his iPhone and said its functional brick looks and heft imparted quality without complexity and value without needless vanity. 

“Our cars will be more about quality. Also, a pure machine you don’t wish to change every three years,” he said. “[We’re] making a design so pure that it’ll last for 10 years, so much so that it won’t need a facelift. A facelift is very superficial.” 

That may be news to BMW today, which bases part of its success (and profit) on cars that spawn performance or luxury variants that add chrome, wider fenders, or quad exhausts. Those superficial elements are how owners tell other drivers on the road that they paid more than base for their BMWs. How does paring down external styling square with those goals?

“BMW without performance doesn’t exist. We are not here to be second,” Dukec told me. Although he didn’t divulge any details, he insisted that Neue Klasse BMWs in the future would distinguish themselves from others but said the automaker would rethink what performance looks like. “The performance will always be there.”

From what we can see with Dee, performance, electrification, and fun will likely come with four doors, a trunk, and a low-slung stance.