Karim Habib: BMW's loss, Infiniti's gain

The Lebanese-Canadian designer joins Infiniti with a mandate to help the brand expand its global market share. We look back at Habib's most notable works at BMW
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March 15, 2017
Click through to see Karim Habib's most notable works
Click through to see Karim Habib's most notable works(1/6)
Gran Lusso Coupe
Gran Lusso Coupe(2/6)
Concept CS
Concept CS(3/6)
2002 Hommage
2002 Hommage(4/6)
3.0 CSL Hommage
3.0 CSL Hommage(5/6)
6 Series Gran Coupe
6 Series Gran Coupe(6/6)

It was just over a month ago that Karim Habib stepped down as BMW’s design chief. While his departure, close on the heels of defections by Anders Warming, head of design for Mini, and Benoit Jacob, who headed the ‘i’ sub-brand’s styling, has left Munich’s styling department in turmoil, it promises to be a shot in the arm for Infiniti.

The premium arm of Nissan today announced that the Lebanese-Canadian designer will join the brand as head of design starting July 1, 2017. It’s a bit of a baffling move, as Habib, who used to report to BMW Group design chief Adrian Van Hooydonk, will join Infiniti in pretty much the same level, reporting to Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president of Global Design for Nissan Motor Corporation. But if it’s a challenge that Habib was looking for, then we believe he’s made the right move, because despite all the right things that Infiniti is doing in terms of engine development, styling is its Achilles’ heel, and it can do with a lot of help from someone like Habib. “Design is one of the key pillars of our global brand development at Infiniti,” says Roland Krueger, adding that Karim Habib’s “unique design skills” will help the brand expand its global luxury market share.

Although Habib had a hand in the styling of the current Mercedes C-Class during his brief stint at Daimler when he left BMW first in 2009, most of his notable work is naturally with the Munich brand. Among the cars, both production and concept, that he has penned, the following are the ones that we consider his best.

  1. The Gran Lusso Coupe: Although a joint effort with Pininfarina’s Fabio Filippini, the one-off Gran Lusso Coupé with its graceful lines and sharknose face harking back to the Seventies, is inarguably the most striking work done by Habib.
  2. The CS Concept: One of Habib’s earlier works for BMW, it is also his most significant as this concept laid the styling foundation for all future BMWs. Design cues such as the large kidney grilles and fastback rear have filtered down to almost all production cars including the Gran Coupe models.
  3. The 2002 Hommage: Getting a modern interpretation of an old car right is tricky. But with this design tribute to the 2002, Habib and his team nailed it with several details including the M tri-colour front splitter, carbon-fibre band at the beltline inspired by the original's chrome trim and the off-centre roundel at the tail.
  4. 3.0 CSL Hommage: A fitting homage to one of BMW’s most iconic cars, this racing concept stayed true to the original, with its flared arches, deflectors, and the massive rear wing along with the spartan, race-spec cabin.
  5. The F06 6 Series Gran Coupe: As you would have noticed, this is the only production model in our list. That’s because none of the other cars that BMW churns out today come close to the 6 Series Gran Coupe in terms of flamboyance. With its sweeping roofline and muscular stance, it is arguably the best looking BMW production car penned by Habib.