FORMER head of BMW design, Karim Habib, is set to take the design reins at Infiniti, replacing Alfonso Albaisa who moves up to take the top styling job at Infiniti’s parent company, Nissan.
Mr Habib’s move to Infiniti on July 1 follows the retirement of Shiro Nakamura as Nissan’s senior vice-president of design, precipitating a top-order shuffle in the Japanese company’s design department.
Born in Lebanon in1970 but raised in Canada, Mr Habib quit BMW in January, ending the second of two stints with the German company, interspersed with a two-year spell at Mercedes-Benz between 2009 and 2011.
Mr Habib, 46, is just the latest in a long list of BMW designers to be poached by other car-makers, with Pierre LeClercq heading to China’s Haval, Anders Warming to born-again German car-maker Borgward and Benoit Jacob to Chinese EV start-up Future Mobility Corp.
Mr Habib graduated from Montreal’s McGill University with a mechanical engineering degree before studying for a design degree from Art Centre College of Design in both Switzerland and Pasadena, California.
After working on a project with a visiting designer from BMW at the college, he was hired directly by the Munich-based car-maker in 1998, firstly assigned to interiors and then exterior design, starting with the previous generation 7 Series (F01) that was launched in 2008.
Among his other BMW design credits are the CS Concept, X6, X3, 2012 6 Series Gran Coupe, X1, X2 and 5 Series.
At Mercedes-Benz, he worked on the current C-Class, as well as the latest Smart, before returning to BMW where he replaced Adrian van Hooydonk at head of design in 2012.
Although Infiniti’s head office is in Hong Kong, Mr Habib will be based at Nissan’s technical centre at Atsugi, near Yokahama, Japan.
He will report to Mr Albaisa, a career-long Nissan designer, the past four years with Infiniti.
By Ron Hammerton