BMW Automobiles head of design Karim Habib has left the company, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. First reported by the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, his departure, though verified independently by Car Design News, is yet to be officially confirmed by BMW.
Habib joined BMW in 1997 and has worked for the company since then with a brief interruption – a two-year stint at Mercedes-Benz in Sindelfingen. A Lebanese-born Canadian, he is responsible for a large number of notable concepts and series production cars. His most recent achievements include several Villa d'Este concepts and the Vision Next 100 concept car, as well as the new 5-series and the almost production-ready X2 concept.
Karim brought a diverse background to BMW; he grew up in five countries, and was a member of Canada’s under-20 national fencing team. He studied mechanical engineering at McGill University in Montreal and automotive design at the legendary, now-defunct Art Center College of Design in Vevey, Switzerland. He professes to be inspired by the work of architect Zaha Hadid and artist Mark Rothko.
Karim's departure seems to have taken the company by surprise; he is quoted at length in a press kit about the facelifted 4-series, dated January 17.
Habib's departure marks yet another loss of high-profile talent on Adrian van Hooydonk's watch. The growing list includes former Mini chief designer Anders Warming, who left a few months ago to head the design of the Chinese-owned brand Borgward. BMW also recently lost BMW i’s Benoit Jacob to Chinese startup Future Mobility and Page Beermann to the Sino-American brand Faraday Future, while Pierre Leclercq left some time ago for Great Wall Motors.
As of this moment, the positions of chief designer at BMW Automobiles, BMW i and Mini are vacant.
The exodus of BMW designers is mirrored by the loss of high-profile engineers, such as BMW i8 project leader Carsten Breitfeld, who left for Future Mobility, and BMW M development chief Albert Biermann, now at Hyundai.
We fully expect to see Habib resurface in a top-level position elsewhere over the next few months.