Besides its blue and white roundel, the twin kidney grilles are the most iconic element of a BMW. With very few exceptions, every BMW has worn the kidney grille, but apparently, that almost wasn't the case in the 1970s. Automotive industry veteran Bob Lutz said that BMW almost did away with the kidney grille for the E21 3 Series, in a .
According to Lutz, BMW wanted to replace the kidneys "with an open grille like any American car with horizontal bars." Lutz, who served as an executive vice president of sales at BMW from 1971-1974, said that the 3 Series was such a design disaster, he convinced the company to start from square one again.
"When I got there, my guy said, 'We hope you get to styling and see the model for the replacement of the 2002. It is so bad that we would rather keep the current one,'" Lutz told Automotive News. "I looked, and it was awful. I got the company to cancel it and to start over. It was the first 3 series."
Lutz tells a tale of incompetence at BMW during his tenure. The company apparently wanted "The Joy of Driving" to be its U.S. slogan, but Lutz claims to have pushed it to adopt "The Ultimate Driving Machine," a slogan that stands to this day.
"[The Joy of Driving] does not do for us what we want to convey about a technologically superior car, " Lutz said. "'Machine' rather than 'car' conveys a sense of substance under style and solid engineering."