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BMW to open design studio in China

Active in China: BMW’s new Shanghai design studio will support a diverse range of projects in China as the company expands with a host of new models, such as the 2012 ActiveE.

BMW Group to bolster Chinese operations with Shanghai design centre opening soon

28 Apr 2011

BMW Group has announced that it will open a design studio in Shanghai, China, in the second half of this year, broadening the operations of its DesignworksUSA subsidiary beyond its current studios in Los Angeles, Munich and Singapore.

The move, which should increase the Designworks employee base beyond the 135 designers currently spread across the three studios, is being described as a key strategic move that will strengthen BMW’s position in the world’s biggest market and foster China’s increasingly important role in global design.

As well as doing advanced design work for the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, DesignworksUSA – which was established as an independent industrial design studio in 1972 by Charles Pelly, with the BMW Group buying it in 1995 – also offers creative services to a diverse range of clients such as Coca Cola, Microsoft, HP and Siemens.

Although BMW has operated a Designworks studio in Singapore since 2006, the new Shanghai centre underscores the Chinese market’s increasing significance to the German luxury car manufacturer.

 center imageLeft: BMW i3 and i8. Below: BMW-Brilliance LWB plug-in hybrid 5 Series.

The studio will be overseen by BMW Group DesignworksUSA president Laurenz Schaffer – the former director of the Designworks Munich studio – and come under the ultimate control of BMW Group design director Adrian van Hooydonk, the Dutch designer who was president of Designworks from 2001-2005 before moving to BMW’s main styling centre and, in 2009, succeeding Chris Bangle as global head of design.

Mr van Hooydonk described the move to Shanghai as “an important strategic step for both BMW Group design and DesignworksUSA”.

“The Shanghai studio will allow us to better serve design clients in China,” he said. “Designing in China will also deepen our understanding of this inspiring culture.”

Mr Schaffer said the Shanghai studio “will help contribute to China’s creative industry development” and enabled the BMW/Designworks “to strengthen our global creative competency, while supporting China’s growing role in global design”.

“By tapping into the Chinese market, DesignworksUSA gains a deeper understanding of Chinese consumer behaviours and offers a global creative perspective to its clients in China and in Asia,” he said.

“Additionally, we will incorporate the Chinese viewpoint in projects for its US and European clients.”

BMW AG’s global sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson emphasised China’s importance to the company at the recent Shanghai motor show, highlighting its position as the third-largest market for the BMW Group worldwide – sales skyrocketed 87 per cent there last year, to 168,998 units – and the number-one market for the 7 Series (26,553 were sold there in 2010) as well as 5 Series and X6 models.

BMW also confirmed in Shanghai that the 1 Series Coupe-based ActiveE all-electric car – currently undergoing real-world testing in Europe and the US – will be launched in China in 2012, followed by the BMW i3 electric city car in 2013 and, “a few months later”, the i8 plug-in hybrid sportscar.

The Mini E EV is also being tested in China with a view to a market introduction there, while the 5 Series LWB plug-in hybrid concept “developed in China for Chinese customers” shown in Shanghai was likewise confirmed at the show as having a production future.

BMW has been building 3 Series and 5 Series models at its plant in Shenyan with joint-venture partner Brilliance since 2003. A second plant in Tiexi in the Shenyang region will be completed next year and produce the X1 SUV.

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