Interview with Zap, taken from a Greek car magazine.

How do you see the modern design with designs inspired from bio-organic environment?

The trends are never the same... They change, just like fashion. But the automobile had always to do with the biologic environment and especially with animals. Animals are dynamic, and the human mind can easily connect to this.
Cars are also a dynamic species. A tiger, a shark may influence the design and produce a dynamic or even aggressive car. This influence, always exists. What changes is simply the measure of how much it does influence. Some times it's lesser sometimes it's larger.

How much can an unusual shape of an automobile affect its succesful sales?

The design is extremely important today, and affects the sales of a model very much. Because, as you know under their skin the automobiles do not change too much. If you compare two cars from the same category, you will find out that mechanically they're almost the same.
So, the bodyshell, and the way it has been made may be the most important thing that will attracts a buyer's attention. And this relationship of the product to the consumer is something that makes the automobile stand out among other industrial products.

You, as a modern designer follow this trend for extraordinary designs. May we expect such designs from BMW in the future, now that you work for them?

I'm trying to achieve this. And this is one of the reasons I joined BMW with such a good mood. I believed that there was the will in them to make new designs in the future. And I am very satisfied, now that I see that things are going towards this way. But we have to be a little patient, and I can tell I have enough.
In total, though I'm in favor of avant guard designs, but there must always be the classic ones, too, so that we have a balance.
I like it very much when I see some cars side by side, such as a series 5 BMW and a Ford Ka. Each one says something different, and this is something I like.

What is more important: A mechanically well designed automobile, even it will be indifferent in sight, or an impressively designed car, which though is not so impressive mechanically?

The nature of my work is such that I must agree to the second one. But, because I drive and love cars too, I want them to have both. I mean, I want them to be of an interesting design inside and out, like the Citroën DS was in its time.

Let's talk about BMW for a while. In my mind I think that the Z3 is a beautiful car, while the closed version, the Coupe is not.
Do you like it's design?

I'm personally in favor of the Coupe, because I think this car has character. I believe, that if you saw a photo of a Z3, a few years ago you would probably think the same about it. We have not seen the Coupe on the road, yet.
I think that it will be succesful.

If we state that during the '80's the design was in second thought and that the automotive industry were more concerned with their cars being more practical, then we may state now that this trend changed for the 90's.
We recently saw different forms of design, like the barchetta or the Bravo or even the Ka. What should we expect for 2000?

Who knows... We shall be here and we shall see... A good question, but I don't know the answer. I think though that the trend for different designs will stay and even increase.
Since an exciting change is not taking place in the mechanicals of automobiles, and there seems to be no preview of such, then I think that the only thing that will separate automobiles will be their exterior design.
I think that for the next 10-15 years we will see more and more exciting designs. Then we will see...

You mean that in a short time the exterior design will characterize its owner?

This is something that happens already today. I would not exclude the fact that it might increase, though in the next generation of automobiles.
Automobile manufacturers already try to design their models, in a way that the can be recognised from a distance. Take as an example the Mercedes E series, with those characteristic front lights.

Since you mentioned Mercedes, what is your opinion on the A-class in terms of design? Also, how can you judge this company's step downward and what will BMW's answer be, if there will be any?

I cannot answer to this, exactly. First of all, I have to see the car in person, I must absorb its design and then I might say something about it. Anyway, I think Mercedes is risking a lot with this model.
As far as we, at BMW are concerned, the only thing I can tell is that at some points our policy is rather like Mercedes' and at other points very different. I would rather not reveal our plans, if or how we may answer to Mercedes...

How will traditional quality car automakers, like Mercedes or BMW will face the threat of the VW Group, which attacks to every aspect of the market?

I don't think they will do anything, but I don't know if it's necessary for them to do something. At least we at BMW have a target at making very good automobiles, which have something to offer to customers in all aspects. In case we will need to react, you may rest assured we will. This is something that all the European car manufacturers did recently against the danger of the Japanese overwhelming them.

When will BMW start taking advantage of Rover's technical knowledge on front wheel drive cars?

You'd better ask some manager, because I am not at all related to such matters. Anyway, I think that this co-operation is going pretty well 'till now, in spite of the fact that many people had predicted that there will be unequalled difficulties. I really don't know something more...

How much will the designers be affected by the new generation of electric cars?

I believe, very much. If we think this fact only, that we will not need this large space for the internal combustion engine, as well as the air circulating system for it's cooling, then some very different designs will appear, which will also be surely smaller in overall exterior dimensions.

How much does the aerodynamics affect a design? Is the lowest level for designers a drag coefficient of 0.28?

During the latest months, I have become 'Mr. Aerodynamics' at BMW and I believe in general in aerodynamics, which fits around the cars that are designed for use on the open road. I think that this number, 0.28, is not the lowest limits. I'm sure there are even lower limits.

How would you judge the new generation of the Korean cars with all these curves, which seem to increase in popularity in the world market?

The Korean car industry is the most evolving industry among all the others in the world. But I think that in terms of design they are in a transitional situation.
There is not a very clean opinion, and most designs are too fast solutions. They need experience, hard work and tradition, some aspects they're not yet good at.
Anyway there is always a possibility for them to get better.

You have graduated an American University, and the man who took your place at Fiat, is an American.
Finally who are the trend setters? The Americans or the Europeans?

Well, even my own director at BMW is American! He has graduated from the same University I did. I think it doesn't matter who's got the upper hand. This whole transaction is like an exchange. The Americans infulence the Europeans and vice versa. There is a continuing dialog between these two civilisations.
Then I think that the best work is done: When the designers are not hiding behind their castles and their tradition.
I have lived in America for many years, and equally many in Italy. My wife is Italian, and I fluently speak Italian and English. These both languages are now like my own (Greek). I have lived the American culture, but also the Italian, aswell. I think that they're both wonderful and that they still have lots to offer.

Which is the material that any designer would like to work with, so that he does not have limitations in his work?
Steel, Aluminum or the synthetic plastics?

It's the inexinium! It comes from the english word 'inexistent' and means it does not exist!
Of course, I'm kidding. The synthetic plastics are used a lot, already, and they will be used even more in the future. But still, steel has too many possibilities. In general, I would say that all materials have their good and bad points. No one is perfect.

Which are the two most beautifully designed cars in your opinion?

I believe everyone has his own. I would choose Citroën DS and Ferrari GTO. But, surely I'm forgetting lots more...

Translation by Stelios Hatzopoulos.