Robb out, Heinrich in at BMW design

Dailies -



After 19 years, the last decade as Vice President of Design for Motorrad, David Robb is leaving BMW. He is being replaced by Edgar Heinrich, another long time BMW designer. No reason has been given for Robb’s departure, but the Boston native certainly has earned his keep, and with personal hobbies that include high performance aerobatic flying, he is certainly not likely to end up wasting away at some golf course.

Pictured here is David Robb (left) working on the C650 GT with Ola Stenegard (right).

Robb is a graduate of Art Center college of Design in California, where he learned the art of automotive design that led him to a career that included Chrysler, Audi and eventually BMW. He was a fixture at the Bavarian company since the days of austere and brutal designs like the K-series of “Flying Bricks” and led a design renaissance that helped steer the company towards its record sales of late.

Edgar Heinrich started at BMW straight out of design school in 1986, and worked his way up to studio chief under Robb’s direction by 2007. In 2009, he left to lead Bajaj Auto as President of Design, a role that would have seen him influence the KTM-Bajaj collaborations such as the baby Duke family, as well as Bajaj’s ambitious car program. Heinrich is now back at home, holding the top slot in the Motorrad design division.

In both personal experiences and by reputation, both men are highly regarded. David Robb was one of only two motorcycle design executives who wrote me a personal letter when I invited him to review my graduate design show. At EICMA and Intermot, he always made time to speak to press and other designers, and had positive views on the role of design, something that has become increasingly rare in this deeply cynical industry. He often spoke enthusiastically about his love of airplanes.

The one time I met Heinrich he was wearing a Hawaiian floral pattern shirt, and in a very calm but influential way discussed his theories about the role of machine-art in the design of motorcycles. The BMW studio I saw then was festooned in comic book fashion storyboards, fantasy renderings of advanced concepts and had a strong aire of confidence. With BMW sales surging consistently upwards, and above the average losses suffered by the recession, there must be some correlation.

  • TuffGong

    Interesting to see where they go now. The bikes are more and more car influenced in terms of switchgear and controls,with ergonimic touch/feel going away and visual oriented screen displays becoming more prevalent and harder to use…

  • slash5alive

    I for one, am hoping at least one model will pay homage to the past. I used to be a big fan but they don’t make much that interests me as of late. At least in the design department anyway.

    • Racetrack Style

      They could probably build one of the best homage to the past bikes. Something that the 30-80 crowd would enjoy riding/owning

    • Eben
      • Gene

        Wow. That R1200R Classic is damn gorgeous. Why the hell haven’t I heard about that bike before? Not that I would buy a BMW, with their wacky CANBUS electrics and other stupid crap.

        • BMW11GS

          hahah Canbus is one of the more reliable systems?

      • Racetrack Style

        no. I’m thinking way back to the R57-era styling with a small boxer motor

  • Beale

    I’d love to see a new headlight design language that doesn’t look like this:

    • michael uhlarik

      A more effective description of BMW’s facia I have never seen.

      It was kind of cool the first time, but now it is just silly. Different for the sake of different.

      • rohorn

        Different for the sake of different? That’s “BMW Normal”.

      • Mark D

        I really think the pirate look works well on the S1000rr, but not so much on the Adventure bikes.

  • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]


  • gerald

    My wife always said my original Robb group design of my 1100S was the prettiest bike I’ve ever owned.

  • AHA

    BMW Motorrad produce great original designs but why so many lame paint schemes?