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.