BMW has announced that legendary design chief David Robb is out. He has been replaced by former understudy Edgar Heinrich as Head of Design at the BMW Motorrad Design Studio. The news is something of a shock considering Robb’s key role in the company’s rapid growth and success.
When the American took over BMW’s as head of BMW Motorrad Design Studio in 1993, he openly wondered why the automobile division’s products exuded performance and excitement, while the motorcycle section’s wares were geared more toward "pipe-and-slippers" buyers who wanted dependabilit,y and little else.
It didn’t take long for Robb’s influence to be felt, with the 1997 K1200RS displaying a very un-BMW-like attitude. Its styling was very sporty, and it was the first BMW to exceed the company’s reportedly self-imposed 100-horsepower ceiling—and it did so by some 20-odd horsepower. The bike wasn’t a sales success, and it caused consternation among the BMW faithful; but it was popular enough that BMW management saw fit to continue Robb’s design vision for the company’s lineup.
Robb is a licensed stunt plane pilot and graduate of Pasadena, California’s Art Center College of Design. He did stints with Audi and Chrysler (he also had offers from Porsche, Ferrari, Fiat, and a few other European OEMs) before moving to BMW’s automotive division and then taking over the motorcycle design section. The rumor as to the reason for Robb's sudden departure was a “major disagreement with a colleague at BMW” according to Sport Rider magazine, but expect Robb to pop up somewhere else very soon and exert just as much influence, for somebody else's benefit. ––Paul Duchene
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