In a surprise move, BMW has snatched one of the VW Group's stars away. Jozef Kaban, head of Skoda design, will move to Munich to head the design of the BMW brand; he will succeed Karim Habib, who left the company unexpectedly a few weeks ago.
At the same time, Domagoj Dukec has been promoted from Head of Exterior Design BMW Automobiles to head BMW i Design and BMW M Design. This is a new arrangement – the post at BMW i Design has been vacant ever since Benoit Jacob left the company for the Chinese startup Future Mobility, while M Design, once headed by former VW and Buchmann designer Ulf Weidhase, had long lost its elevated position.
The hiring of Kaban and the shifting of Dukec fills two of the three gaping voids created by the sudden departures of Habib, Jacob, and former Mini chief designer Anders Warming, who left to head global design at the Sino-German brand Borgward. No successor for Warming has been announced yet.
Kaban: Recreated the image of Skoda
Both Kaban and Dukec bring an impressive portfolio and vast experience to their new positions.
Slovakian-born Jozef Kaban (44), a Graduate of the Royal College of Art in London, has spent his entire career within the Volkswagen Group, where he quickly became a favourite of former chief designer Hartmut Warkuß and Peter Schreyer. Noteworthy projects he worked on include the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 and the VW Lupo, which he created together with Gert Hildebrand, now chief designer at Qoros.
But he was most visible as chief designer of Skoda, a position he had held since early 2008. Working on the established corporate platforms and taking some appropriate cues from brands like SEAT, he created a unique styling language which some believe is currently the most successful of any in the VW Group, combining the trademark sharp creases and horizontal lights in an especially product-design-like and almost aloof fashion.
Dukec: Has proved himself at BMW already
Domagoj Dukec, a Croat born in Frankfurt, studied Transportation Design in Pforzheim; after his graduation, he worked at Volkswagen and then moved to Citroën, where he was responsible for a number of high-profile models. Dukec worked on the iconic Citroën C4 Coupe, launched in 2004.
In 2010, Dukec joined BMW; his tasks included creating a series of good-looking, tall-roof vehicles for the brand. With the current front-wheel drive BMWs, he delivered admirably; they feature a pleasantly aggressive look, with a front overhang that is unusually short for front-drivers. Dukec, by the way, lists Michelangelo among his inspirations – and Karl Lagerfeld.
With the reshuffle, things look a lot more rosy at BMW Design than just a few weeks ago. But the fact remains that BMW has lost an unusual number of talented and accomplished designers ever since Adrian van Hooydonk took over from Chris Bangle in 2009. The list includes Ian Cameron, David Robb, Gert Hildebrand and many more high-profile designers.
Kaban and Dukec have ther work cut out for them. In an interview las month, R&D chief Klaus Fröhlich announced “big leaps” and “more character, emotion and personality” for future BMW models – things that some observers feel are lacking from parts of the brand's current lineup.
Photos: BMW & Skoda