It's like something out of a sci-fi flick. This BMW prototype with a flexible textile skin reflects the carmaker's new design philosophy, GINA (geometry and functions in N adaptations — the N represents an infinite number). GINA sprang from a gamble that if BMW Group Design disregarded accepted conventions and existing car-building processes, innovation might result.
The concept car, ever-so-catchily named the GINA Light Visionary Model, has no rigid body panels. Its minimalist space frame is wrapped in a spandexlike fabric to permit shape-changing features powered by hydraulic and electric controls. To adjust aerodynamics at high speed, the rocker panels morph for better airflow and a seamless spoiler rises at the rear. The grille can widen for cooling. And the headlights hide under fabric that opens, like eyelids, when needed.
BMW has no plans to turn this prototype into a commercial model, but it's a good leading indicator: Innovative materials, increased personalization, and kinetic components are coming down the road.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.