BMW didn't have anything particularly new to show at the Paris Motor Show except for the excellent Clubman John Cooper Works over at Mini. Given the fact that both Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen went all-in on electric vehicle announcements, the Bavarians decided to lure away some journalists from the competition to their Brand Store in central Paris on day one, where two special "i" cars were about to get revealed in front of a small group packed with members of the Italian press.
The Italians were interested because Lapo Elkann was there. The grandson of former Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli rarely disappoints.
When the Dutch king of business casual, BMW's design chief Adrian van Hooydonk, introduced Elkann as his creative partner, he said something about how Lapo is "a pioneer in linking the disciplines of fashion, automobile and design" and that he, as a designer "finds [Elkann's] comprehensive approach particularly exciting."
Calling Lapo Elkann's approach to anything "exciting" is one way of putting it for sure.
Born in New York as the son of an Italian Countess and an American-born writer, Lapo played a number of roles within the Fiat Group throughout the years, being one of the key people behind the birth of the Fiat 500 and the founder of Ferrari's Tailor-Made customization program. But when he wasn't busy collecting awards for being the best dressed man in a 10,000 mile radius, he managed to find the time , , or get after a substance-heavy night went south. Then again, wouldn't you go wild once in a while if your grandpa controlled 4.4 percent of Italy's GDP, driving a one-off Lancia Delta Spider Integrale in his spare time?
With all that in mind, three years ago, I wrote that Lapo is someone "." Last Thursday, .
As you would expect, the only time I could have a quick private chat with the golden child was when he went outside for a cigarette, finally leaving all those Italians behind who kept asking him about Ferrari and the rest of Fiat-Chrysler's shenanigans. As the head of , Lapo is currently in the business of making "the impossible possible," turning your car, boat or private jet into something truly unique. And next year, his company will expand to the USA, to make even more "dreams come true."
For the Paris Motor Show, Elkann followed up , built for the 50th anniversary of BMW Italia, with a modern interpretation of the French Pointillism movement. Garage Italia covered the i8 in hand-painted triangles, while the i3 got a "watercolor wrap" that plays with dots to trick your eyes. Lapo told me they've got very good people, and that's how the i8's paint job took only a week to complete, while the i3 was done in just three days. To complete the looks, his team also re-trimmed the interiors in color-matching Alcantara.
If you like what you see here, have no fear, as BMW is going to launch these as special editions known as the The BMW i3&i8 Garage Italia CrossFades in early 2017, keeping the lineup somewhat fresh until the i8 Roadster arrives in 2018.
BMW's event also reminded me that when you have nothing new to show apart from some artsy dots, all you need to do is add more champagne to the picture. And some Lapo Elkann. The combination of those two will definitely fix it.