When an updated BMW 1 Series arrives in Australia in July it will, in one sense, be coming home — the exterior update on the car was done by an Australian.
From the age of 16, Calvin Luk dreamt of designing for BMW. Now he's one of the key people in the company's exterior production design studio in Germany. His first complete car will be public later in the year, but the 1 Series work is already on the road in Europe and he has a big grin.
"I'm enjoying it here. There is no reason to think about anything else. It was always a dream to come here," Luk tells CarsGuide.
He wrote to BMW after visiting the Sydney Motor Show in the 1990s, took the company's advice to study at the Art Centre College of Design in California, then interned at BMW before being offered a full-time job.
"I always stayed in touch with the BMW team while I was studying. Once you leave Australia, that's it, you better make something out of it. It's a big commitment to leave home."
The impression from front and rear is that it's almost a new car
That commitment is now reflected in his work on BMW production cars, starting with the 1 Series.
"It's a facelift. But it's the whole front and rear end," he says. "A lot of the change is being driven by the new components underneath, like the new light modules and air requirements for new engines.
"Overall, the impression from front and rear is that it's almost a new car."
Sydney-born Luk says his background gives him a global view of the car business.
What you consider important is coming from many facets at the same time
"It's not just being Australian, but it's also studying in California and my Asian heritage from Hong Kong. Then you're living in Germany in Munich. What you consider important is coming from many facets at the same time."
He has worked with BMW for nearly seven years, starting with the advanced design studio, and loves the competitive element to his job. That starts with concept sketches, runs through a contest to create the best design and models for a new car, to the final production work.
"I think it's exciting. Without competition you don't have the same sort of drive to make the best out of the project. It's much more exciting and thrilling, and it keeps you on your toes." Luk says working at BMW gives him both challenges and satisfaction.
Customers expect more that they cannot get in other cars
"You have to respect the brand. Part of the customer expectation is to buy a BMW at the end of the day, so you don't want to throw them something that's unrelated," he says.
"You add to the story. But you do have more freedom because you are a premium product, and you can invest more. And customers expect more that they cannot get in other cars."