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Karim Habib is Kia’s New Head of Design

We’ve don’t always report on top-level changes at various auto manufacturers, this being a period of particularly active musical chairs in the industry.

But here we have a bit of news that’s particularly noteworthy. Today, Kia Motors announced the appointment of former Montreal Karim Habib as new head of design at the Korean automaker. The designer’s official title is Senior Vice President and Head of Kia Design Center, and he will report to Luc Donckerwolke, head of design at the Hyundai Group.

And who is Karim Habib?

Of Lebanese origin, Karim Habib lived in Montreal from the age of 11 until he was 24. By his own admission, those years were formative for the young man. After studying mechanical engineering at McGill University, he left for the ArtCenter College of Design in Switzerland, before finishing his training in automotive design at the ArtCenter’s campus in Pasadena, California.

Photo: D.Rufiange

Right after graduating he was recruited by BMW in 1998, and he would stay on there until 2009, year in which he produced possibly the most beautiful 7 Series ever conceived. Two years earlier he has also produced the CS Concept, a gorgeously drawn car that would change the way BMW approached design.

BMW CS Concept
Photo: D.Rufiange
BMW CS Concept

In 2009, Habib left his first employer for Mercedes-Benz, but he was back at BMW by 2011. He remained there until the summer of 2017, when he was approached by Infiniti. He stayed at the Japanese automaker for two years, when it was announced the designer was leaving to pursue other opportunities. We now know what those other opportunities are.

“Kia is a growing, ambitious brand on a determined path toward electrification and mobility innovation. I am thrilled to be a part of this transformation to strengthen the Kia brand further into the future of the automotive industry, which promises to be full of challenges and opportunities. I look forward to working with CDO Donkerwolke whose work I have admired for many years, as well as the Kia design team that has created some truly remarkable designs.”

- Karim Habib, Kia Motors

We’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Karim Habib on several occasions in the past few years. On the last of those, he told us how much the electrification of vehicles was opening up interesting new avenues to car designers, now freed from several traditional constraints.

It will be fascinating to see what the man gets up to at Kia Motors.