BMW Designworks Singapore shuts down - Moving to Shanghai!

Had the opportunity to travel for work related in both countries for a period of time
In general, their culture are somehow similar
How they look at life, their motivation and goals.
But yeah, Singapore comes off as a bit rigid and too systematic at times maybe due to their political system.
Maybe that’s why BMW shifting to Shanghai?

Anyway, I think it is just rumors…
Yeah, i forgot to mention, free speech is not allowed there
that’s why sometimes they tend to spread baseless rumors in the net to vent out their frustration.

Yeah, i forgot to mention, free speech is not allowed there

P.R.C or Singapore?

I guess he means PRC: Ai Weiwei attacks injustices in China in magazine article | China | The Guardian
“Beijing is two cities. One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation.
Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.”

Singapore is about as “rigid” as Germany - very efficient and well organised with a proper legal system. It is great if you want to live comfortably and safely with your family. Together with Japan it is the only place in Asia where you can drink the tap water!

I’m not entirely sure of that, Singapore isn’t too hot on free speech either but it still doesn’t hold a candle to the PRC in terms of paranoia over the issue.

On another note, I personally don’t hold much stock in creativity of the large numbers design grads being churned out by Chinese universities. Especially if their are murmurings from the central government that they wish to clamp down on the “critical thinking” taught in classes in HK, to bring them in to line with the thought processes adopted by their mainland cousins.

“Regarding the moral and national education in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools, some people say it amounts to ‘brainwashing’. But if we look at such systems in Western countries like the United States and France, we will find this kind of ‘necessary brainwashing’ is an international convention.”

“Some people say there is a need to help primary and secondary school pupils develop critical thinking. However, the usual practice in the international community is to nurture critical thinking in universities, not in primary and secondary schools.”

Hao Tiechuan, the director of the Publicity, Culture and Sports Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR

Some will slip through the net such as An Wei Wei and hopefully BMW will snap them up, however the vast rank and file of the mainland’s design industry have problem solving skills which have to be seen to be believed.

Bigcad brings up an interesting point that I haven’t seen explored enough. Why are Americans and Europeans so innovative compared to ROTW? What’s in our culture that encourages this kind of thinking? Hmmm…

My guess is that originally they found a seasoned expat willing to set up an office in Asia, but that person insisted on Singapore because they already lived there. Seen this many times when companies set up regional offices.

As things went along they found that this person could not do what they said they would do, business wise. Once Designworks decided they were going to get rid of this head, they actually put their business hat on an realized that China is the place to be (becoming the largest market as someone above mentioned), and places like Shanghai are becoming expat centers. Plus a major amount of the Chinese auto industry are nearby (also mentioned above).

So all in all Designworks has made a smart move in locating in Shanghai.

Why did they do it? Above reasons are valid plus it gives them the ability to get cheap engineers for product development and it gives them the ability to work on projects 24 hours a day. Projects get passed from one continent to another, speeding up project timelines.

Why are Americans and Europeans so innovative compared to ROTW? What’s in our culture that encourages this kind of thinking?

I don’t think it’s anything which is in our culture rather something citizens of the PRC are not taught or is suppressed. From my experience of the faucet industry (yeah…some one has to) designs coming from the ROTW (ROC) are actually rather innovative, something hard to achieve is this saturated market. On attending the Kitchen and Bath China Trade Fair this year in Shanghai (yep…exciting as it sounds) Taiwanese based companies had a slew of product design awards to their names including Red Dots, iFs and even their own homegrown Taiwan Design Award. In comparison their mainland competitors had remarkably poor ranges, lacking innovation at any level; they made attempts to drag peoples’ attention away from this by using some of the following examples: living statues painted in gold, body painting, fashion shows, musicians, magic shows, celebrities endorsing their product range, wet bikini shows, lines of students in animal suits pushing their brand, camera crews and a conveyor belt of showers (pictures available on request).

My reasoning behind this divergence between the two cultures of the ROTW and PRC can be put down to the following, when the Communists took the mainland their was a tide of refugees to Taiwan which included for the most part industrialists and scholars, really those with the most to lose under the new government. So whilst innovation has been a dirty word on the mainland for decades, Taiwan didn’t have such restrictions and the specialists to carry it out. Lack of creativity can not be consigned to Confucius values as these are also the bedrock of HK, South Korean and I also think Japanese culture.

Back to the subject of the car industry in China:

As to why BMW Designworks set up in Singapore in the first place remain unclear
I realized that the consultancy design mostly consumer electronics there
Most of the lead designers are not even locals … so what’s the point?

BMW is to develop a new brand of electric cars exclusive to China, giving into pressure from the Chinese authorities.
“It will be a purely Chinese brand. It will have no connection with the BMW brand,” board member Friedrich Eichiner told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Otherwise there would be a risk of brand dilution.

According to the newspaper, BMW has been under pressure from the Chinese authorities to agree to the creation of new brand. All Western manufacturers have been told that they must develop brands specifically for the Chinese market in order to be allowed to build new factories in the country. Another condition is that the foreign companies cooperate with a Chinese company.

Volkswagen has already made plans for a hybrid automobile called the Kaili, while Daimler has also announced that is planning an electric car in partnership with Chinese carmaker BYD.

BMW will work with its Chinese partner Brilliance to create a brand for the so-called “New Energy Vehicles,” which are named in the country’s latest five year plan as a strategic industry.

It is still uncertain how many electric cars it will manufacture with Brilliance but they are unlikely to use the normal BMW technical standards. The German company does not want to share too much of its intellectual property with other companies.

It happens to all foreign joint venture partners: They are invited to have tea and a chat with representatives of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). After the pleasantries are exchanged, the weather has been discussed, and statements of mutual admiration have been made, someone from the NDRC side will say: “Don’t you want to start a Chinese brand? We would really appreciate it.” Who can say no to the wishes of the Chinese government?
Some will say that this will be BMW’s second Chinese brand, because its joint venture partner Brilliance has this irritating tendency of building cars that could be mistaken for a BMW. But that’s a different story for another day.
The reason why BMW Designworks is moving to China is to develop and support this new brand. This way BMW can compartimentalize i.e. protect all their proprietary information and easily pull out if things go south. The office and its designers will not have access to the latest BMW technology and designs. Forget about exchange of information with BMW. That is strictly on a need-to-know basis and the Germans are far too afraid of leakage of sensitive data. I pity the BMW Group designers who have to work for this new artificial B-brand with no heritage.

There is no law that demands that every joint venture has to have a Chinese brand. But there are strong suggestions by the Chinese government that doing so would improve the overall harmony. GM has its Baojun, Honda has its Everus, Nissan has its Venucia. Even Toyota, long opposed to any Chinese brands, caved it and allegedly will offer electric vehicles under a Chinese brand.

Volkswagen will offer its EVs and hybrids under the “Kaili” brand in China. And BMW will offer its “New Energy Vehicles” under a new, yet to be announced name.
Now why the push for Chinese brands? Multiple reasons. Carlos Ghosn, who agreed to supply a Venucia EV instead of a Leaf to China, said it’s national pride. A few months ago in Beijing, he said that Germans have a strong German car industry, France has a French car industry , Japan a Japanese and so forth. He had great sympathies for the world’s largest auto market seeking a bit of national identity – as long as Ghosn keeps his fingers in the pie. There’s more: If the brand and the model are officially Chinese, then no licenses for brand and model have to be paid. Cars will be high quality and can be exported. The Chinese government is frustrated with its own car industry which is loafing along at 30 percent market share. And finally, the Chinese government is partner, in one way or the other, in most joint ventures.

The reason was not very clear why Singapore was chosen for the Asia studio but Designworks was clever to rectify their decision promptly to make the right business decision.

Not sure if the various accusations on the head of the studio being the one at fault are fair. He seemed like a very supportive guy when he came for pitch to our team with his people. His designers were very smart and he let them talked everything.


The only reason why he lets the team do the talking is because he can’t say anything sensible himself. Just ask him some slightly challenging questions on design and he won’t be able to answer decently. It is amazing how a guy with so little vision can become director in BMW Designworks. Says something about that company. He is good as a spelling checker though, a very expensive one that is. Anyway he has been demoted in Shanghai.

Met with one of the biggest white goods companies in China for drinks and dinner the other day (Haier). They mentioned they hired BMW for a design project. The result was so disappointing they initially refused to pay for it. Their perception is that the talented car designers are not working on product design projects and name dropping the BMW brand is just a way to lure clients…

Not sure if it is true but definitely saucy.

OXOX Gossip Guy

Daniel: Aren’t all the studios like this? $90 an hour you get the interns, $300 an hour you get the big guns?

A Chinese client refusing to pay for work?? I’m shocked! (insert “sarcasti-quotes”)

Ha ha, could be any number of reasons behind their desire for non-payment. The first of which: THEY ARE CHINESE!

No surprises there :sunglasses:
If you can’t get money from your Chinese client you haven’t build the right relationship with them i.e. guanxi… But it helps to have lawyers with deep Communist Party connections! They can make life pretty difficult for entrepreneurs.
Anyway the project was six figures in USD, hardly something to put only interns on…

The official opening of the Shanghai office has been pushed back to March 2012 at the earliest…almost a year after the announcement was made! :open_mouth: So don’t send them your portfolios and CVs just yet. :unamused:
Says enough about the competency of the management charged with setting up this operation and how committed they are. Not particularly professional or convincing from BMW side if you ask me. They will be the last major car company to open a studio here… Audi & Mercedes Advanced already have well-run offices and many designers in China.

Sometimes unforeseen things happen. You are judging an entire organization with no context and one piece of information, and ignoring the fact that they had a studio in Singapore years before other Euro and US organizations were in Asia. Anyone who has ever participated in setting up a remote office knows how difficult it can be on so many levels.

Agreed, there is nothing wrong with some delay and opening an office in China is no walk-in-the-park. Definitely much tougher than anywhere else in Asia.
However, this could have been anticipated from the start! With this in mind BMW should not have made a big fuss about it almost a year in advance and gotten everybody pumped up if they can’t deliver… Losing face is everything here in China.

I am not sure how reliable your info is but
I did a google search on BMWDesignworks Singapore, they receive an award from the President of Singapore?
Maybe the award made them having 2nd thoughts…

HAHAHAHA that must be the most naive comment I have read in while! Reversing a business decision that involves hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of dollars because of a design award??? I don’t think so.
Anyway, the physical office space is ready and waiting in Shanghai. I took a peek a couple of weeks ago! It is just a matter of getting the legal constructs in place (like funding & how to get the profit out of China) and getting it properly staffed.

Chuck Pelly is an idiot, that’s all right, he thought I was an idiot too.