A new form of luxury
A new form of
Interview with Pieter Nota
and Adrian van Hooydonk

In BMW Group’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ), Member of the Board of Management Pieter Nota and Head of Group Design Adrian van Hooydonk can be seen above entering the Holodeck with smiles on their faces. Holodeck is the name of the lounge – fitted with cutting edge technology – where the design team usually presents future vehicle concepts in a digital format and discusses their ideas. But today we are interviewing them here for something slightly different – to talk about luxury.

Pieter Nota

“In the past, luxury was often about acquiring the best in the world. But now it’s also about the best for the world. And at the BMW Group, we’re committed to resolving this apparent contradiction for customers.”

Pieter Nota, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Sales, Brand, Aftersales

Gentlemen, let’s talk about luxury. You’ve both brought something with you, representing this topic. Could you show us what you brought, Mr van Hooydonk?

Adrian van Hooydonk: (pulls a travel alarm clock out of his jacket pocket) This alarm clock is a design classic that most people knew only in black, not orange as we see here, but the orange is exactly what I like about it. Luxury for me has always had something surprising or fresh about it that appeals to me personally. Something that adds to my life, beautifying and enriching it. But the alarm clock is of course also a symbol of time. And having time for my family, hobbies and self is truly a luxury in my opinion. I imagine that many BMW customers can relate to this.

Pieter Nota: I think the alarm clock perfectly symbolises how the concept of luxury has changed around the world. Luxury used to be much more about presentation and showing off. But today more than ever, our customers are asking what a product or service means to them personally. Does it improve their life or mobility? Does it mean something? Does it also enhance their lives in non-material ways? As a whole, luxury has become both more personal and diverse.

So, something luxurious does not need to necessarily be expensive, valuable or even ostentatious?

Adrian van Hooydonk: As a designer, I of course appreciate high-quality, valuable objects, and not least precisely crafted materials. And although they can, they certainly don’t have to be overly extravagant or expensive. In the design process, you can purposefully focus on specific aspects to find intelligent ways to reduce the amount of material you use in a given product. The art – which is incredibly important at BMW – lies in doing this accurately, whilst ensuring top quality and excellent functionality.

Let’s come to your item now, Mr Nota. What do you have with you?

Pieter Nota: (pulls out his smartphone and turns the screen around to show the My BMW app) The My BMW app highlights our aim to offer users many points of contact and a world of experience – a world in which they consistently feel: this brand is communicating with me, respects me and is the right one for me. And it always looks after my needs in a professional way when it suits me. This holistic yet straightforward concept is how I view luxury today.

“Luxury for me has always had something surprising or fresh about it that appeals to me personally. Something that adds to my life, beautifying and enriching it.”

Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of Group Design

And so holistic means communicating on all digital and analogue channels?

Pieter Nota: Absolutely. Digital experiences and personal support are two sides of the same coin, and they’re inseparable. Our vehicles are high-tech, beautiful, modern and sophisticated products, which we want to reflect in how we communicate with customers. At BMW, we call this high tech / high touch: our customers have a myriad of options, not only to communicate with their vehicle, but also to get in touch with us. For instance, whilst on the sofa in the evening, a customer can choose to dive into our brand world using their smartphone. But this is also complemented by the first-class customer support provided by our dealerships.

What does this direction mean for design at BMW, Mr van Hooydonk?

Adrian van Hooydonk: How customers spend time in their car and what we can offer them during this time are incredibly important to us. BMWs are and will of course always be driving machines that you enjoy controlling yourself. I think a powerful electric vehicle like our BMW iX M60* speaks for itself in this regard. At the same time, we continue to offer more options in terms of assisted and automated driving. Both make a BMW stand out – active and assisted driving in harmony. We intentionally design our interiors to be customisable, adaptive and high-quality because they’re also a personal space.

Could you give us an example of that?

Adrian van Hooydonk: Take our Theatre Screen, for instance, which we recently revealed at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. It offers a truly unique experience and atmosphere for passengers sitting in the rear seats. Designers like me spend a lot of time thinking about how we can make something like this feel completely harmonious, which is why we focussed on great sound and beautiful lighting as well as making it logical and easy to use.

Pieter Nota: Adrian, you are absolutely right. The Theatre Screen is a perfect example of what luxury means today because it offers a unique experience. It’s far more than just a large screen because it combines the light, sound and atmosphere so that vehicle occupants can enjoy a genuine cinematic experience in the car. But luxury for BMW is also about offering top-class performance and setting new standards.

On a similar note, many people are asking whether luxury and sustainability are even compatible. What are your thoughts?

Pieter Nota: In the past, luxury was often about acquiring the best in the world. But now it’s also about the best for the world. This is part of our brand promise. And at the BMW Group, we’re committed to resolving this apparent contradiction for customers. We are taking this very seriously and reporting our plans and progress with complete transparency on our way towards ever-greater sustainability.

Adrian van Hooydonk: Our main aim is circularity. The whole process of creating and using a product needs to be sustainable from start to finish. As designers, we’re exploring every option to make this a reality. And although you might think this is somewhat restrictive, it’s actually incredibly exciting and allows us to be extremely creative.

Pieter Nota: This is not just empty talk – we’re following up on our words with action. A great example is our BMW i Vision Circular, which we presented in September 2021. It’s a truly luxurious but also fully recyclable vehicle. Our BMW i7 will also show how we can bring these aims together. We’ve certainly set ambitious goals in terms of sustainability without our customers having to sacrifice anything. Sustainability presents a great opportunity to create a new, modern kind of luxury. And that’s what the BMW Group stands for.

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