Last month, BMW took the wraps off its all new battery electric sedan, the i4. The car has finally arrived after a long gestation period during which it was rumored to be an SUV, a sport coupe, a pickup truck, a delivery van, or a lunar rover. The most distinguishing feature of the i4 is two huge grill openings that remind many older people of Bucky Beaver, the lovable mascot for Ipana toothpaste.
Reaction to the car has been mixed. In a survey conducted by Automobile Survey Group shortly after the i4 reveal, 24.6% of people reported they love the design while the remainder described the car as a “nightmare,” “awful,” or “downright ugly.” Mrs. Gwendolyn Schmutz of Peoria, Illinois, told ASG, “I had to avert my gaze. Thank heaven I had a good supply of José Cuervo to help get me through.”
Mme. Elise Désolé of Isle de Haute in France told an interviewer, “I haven’t seen nostrils like that since Charles DeGaulle at Bastille Day in 1962.” Mr. Herbert Demester of Folkestone, England said his flat overlooks the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. “Whenever I look south toward Calais, I can see the trains going into and coming out of the Chunnel. The grill on the i4 looks like an exact replica.”
Not everyone agrees. Herr Heinrich Hepplemeier of Hannover told ASG, “The grill on the i4 is nicht schlecht. It reminds me of zwei Fleischklößchen on a plate of spaetzle.”
After the survey was conducted and the results tabulated, the company decided it may have gone in the wrong direction with its new electric car design language. Holtz von Heinwurst, assistant deputy chief designer for the company, tells European Motor News, “Ja, we kinda went off the rails there a little bit. BMW has been using the ‘twin kidney’ grille for almost 100 years and it has become part of our design language. But this thing looks more like twin lungs than twin kidneys. We fired the guy who designed it, Gott sei danke, and I understand he is now head of grill design at Lexus.”
In an effort to create a more appealing front end treatment that won’t scare young children, BMW says it will use a version of the current grille found on the 8 series coupe. “It carries on the tradition of BMW,” Heinhurst says, “but in a more dignified way. And it allows the i4 to cut is drag coefficient from 0.47 to 0.26, increasing range by 36 miles. Let’s just say the i4 front end was an April Fool’s joke and move on.”
The announcement has brought a sigh of relief from drivers around the world. Lance Hienmighty of Scarsdale says his polo club voted last month to ban the i4 on the grounds that it was an egregious affront to good taste. In Florida, a well known ex-president said he heard the grill of the i4 “kills all the birds. All the birds.” And in Bremen, Norway, community leader Are Johansen said it was a relief that his beautiful community would not be inundated with new electric BMWs with a nose that reminded people of the Sognefjord and the Hardangerfjord.
Workers at BMW are busy removing the offending nostrils from the front of pre-production I4s. They are being donated to Canada, which will use them to strain debris from the Niagara River before it flows over the falls. So for now, the horror of the twin sewer grates stuck on the front of the i4 is behind us. Let’s hope the company is able to resist such follies and foibles in the future.