After nearly 10 years away from the industry, one of the world's most exciting and outspoken car designers, Chris Bangle, is back and with a suitably revolutionary conceptual creation called REDS.
Unveiled at the LA Auto Show, REDS is a functioning urban space that also happens to be an electric car and is a collaboration between Bangle's design consultancy and CHTC (China Hi-Tech Group Corporation). What's more it's one that, Bangle claims, completely turns the current design status quo on its head.
Indeed, the fully operational prototype on show in LA, really does challenge the eye thanks to its genuinely new visual approach. For instance, its inverted and tilted front windshield makes the vehicle looks huge, despite being roughly the same size as a Smart ForTwo; and, because there is no single dominant side line, there is no visual design cue that denotes movement or direction.
But that's intentional as part of the project's brief is to imagine a car for a Chinese megacity that, due to congestion and other issues, will be non-moving 90% of the time it's in use.
"REDS breaks away from conventions. We are entering a fourth age of car design, but designers are hesitant because of the fear of doing things differently," said Chris Bangle. "We've created a new design language that is at once friendly and immediate, but at the same time subtle, ambiguous, and textually layered."
Before turning his back on the industry and moving into design consultancy in 2009, Chris Bangle was one of the world's most exciting, revolutionary and bravest automotive designers.
None more so than during his tenure at BMW where, between 1992 and 2009 as its very first American head of global design, Bangle essentially tore up the company's visual rule book and started from scratch, making its big boxy cars as astounding to look at as they were fun to drive. The at times polarizing visual results of this new direction made him famous beyond the automotive industry and not always for the right reasons. He was pilloried as much as applauded for his revolutionary approach.
But during his time at BMW, as well as shaking up the luxury sedan market, he also ushered in the age of the modern SUV. In 1999 he oversaw the launch of the BMW X5, which set the visual template for essentially every luxury crossover from every marque that has since followed.
And, with REDS, Bangle and his team are looking to usher in the next vehicular template where the interior is a transformative space. In concept form it can seat five in comfort when not moving (four when on the go), has space for up to two large suitcases and boasts a swivel-round driver's seat.
It can be fitted with a deployable table so it can double as a mobile or static office, a multimedia system so it can serve as a micro cinema or, as a space for meditation, pampering and relaxation -- the prototype on the company's LA stand actually has a fully functioning foot spa and massager in its front passenger footwell.
Of its endless potential uses, Bangle said: "It's about time we made a car that not only has a wrap-around love seat but is also best-in-class for diaper changing."
Bangle and his team are using LA as a means of generating further feedback beyond its initial Chinese market, before finalizing design and beginning production in Turin, Italy.