But will continue with its controversial design direction.

BMW’s bold new design language applied to models such as the new 4 Series, M3, and M4 kidney grilles is certainly dividing opinions, with many enthusiasts criticizing the automaker’s redesigned kidney grilles. Speaking with Autocar, Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice-president of BMW Group design, admitted that the response to this radical new design “can be brutal,” but this doesn’t mean BMW will make any changes in response to negative feedback.

Speaking with Autocar, van Hooydonk and BMW’s head of design, Domagoj Dukec, argue that this distinctive design helps BMW stand out from the competition whether you love it or loathe it. “If you want to create something that stands out, it must be distinguished and it has to be different,” said Dukec.

Front Angle ViewBMW

Rear View DrivingBMW

“If you want to reach some customers, you have to stand out. It’s not our goal to please everyone in the world, but you have to please your customers.” BMW is fully aware that its new design direction won’t please everyone, but acknowledging the company’s past while also moving forward is a tricky balance. “There is some friction when your old product is so successful, and that’s what we’re seeing,” said van Hooydonk.

“If your market success isn’t there, then you have to change. That’s a very stressful situation as a company. It’s better to have this kind of stress [the controversy], even though it would be even better to have market success and universal praise for the changes. But somehow that’s rarely the case.”

Taking risks has paid off for BMW in the past with successful models like the 1500 luxury sports sedan in the 1960s. Dukec goes on to explain how BMW is aiming for customers to want its cars, not need them.

Front ViewBMW

Front View DrivingBMW

As a result, BMW has been able to identify two core customer groups its current cars appeal to dubbed the “elegant creators” and the “expressive performers.” BMW thinks the creators tend to prefer odd-numbered cars with traditional designs like the 3, 5, and 7 Series, while the performers favor even-numbered cars like the M4 or X6. Dukec thinks creators want a car “more focused on the cabin, but it still has to have a fluid silhouette and nice proportions.”

In contrast, practicality is lower on the performer’s list of priorities. Dukec compares the smaller cabins to a tight-fitting suit that’s “not the most comfortable one, but it’s the one in which you look the best. They want a car that’s almost irrational.”

Forward ViewBMW

Rear View DrivingBMW

As a result, traditional BMW styling cues like the kidney grille, quad headlights, and Hofmeister kink will remain in BMW’s current design language but with increased fragmentation in the range.

According to the designers, sportier models will get vertical grilles with sculpted surfaces, while electric cars will retain the design applied to the iX flagship incorporating a vertical grille housing the autonomous driving sensors. Future electric sedans, on the other hand, may get “narrow” grilles instead of vertical ones depending on the customer group it’s designed for. Based on this design philosophy, the production i4 will retain the concept’s large vertical kidney grilles, while the upcoming i7 will have a smaller grille previewed in recent spy shots.