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Bangle on Way out

Bangle On Way Out

t looks as though the controversial relationship between BMW and its chief designer, Chris Bangle, could be coming to the end of the road, Auto Express can exclusively reveal.

While the flamboyant stylist's radical remake of the German company's range has divided opinion across the car world, BMW has remained fiercely loyal to him. Now, however, there are rumours that the American, whom we interviewed exclusively back in issue 773, will step down from the hot seat in less than a year's time.

According to our source at BMW HQ in Munich, word has it that Bangle will stay for the global launch of the 1-Series this autumn, before declaring that his daring brand rethink is complete and that the time has come for a new design boss to take over.

Bangle has headed up BMW's styling department for more than a decade. In that time, he's not only been responsible for the reworking of the 3, 5 and 7-Series, but he has also overseen the creation of the X5 and X3 off-roaders, the forthcoming VW Golf rival - the 1-Series - and the 6-Series coupé and cabrio, the latter officially unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show. On top of that, an all-new 3-Series is currently under development and expected to hit the streets in 2005.

The fact that Bangle's far-reaching overhaul of BMW's family identity is now nearly complete is not the only sign that the American's influence in the boardroom is slipping. Our spies have told us that the re-engineered and facelifted X5 was originally destined to sport a new nose with radically angled headlamps, not unlike those fitted to the new 5-Series. One insider said he saw the finished model two years ago, but by the time the car was unveiled at last September's Frankfurt Motor Show, the adventurous look had been mysteriously dropped in favour of a more conservative style. This suggested that some in the BMW hierarchy aren't happy.

Now, a revamped 7-Series has reportedly suffered the same fate. The car was expected to adopt new headlamps and a revised tail. And even though a prototype was seen running last spring, the model has yet to be launched. Hilton Holloway
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