Born in Beirut and raised in Canada, Karim Habib's love affair with cars started early and his 15-year association with German automaker BMW has seen him rise through the ranks. Now, for his latest project, the BMW 7-Series, Habib designed with one philosophy in mind: precision and poetry.
How do you apply your philosophy of 'precision and poetry' to car design?
These are two catchy words. Firstly, precision reflects how all BMWs are precise driving machines. So that's just good, clear, simple and authentic design. Poetry might not be something that you would associate with BMW but we say poetry because these cars need to have a certain soul, a certain warmth and a certain sensuality to them. That's something I think is very important for the future especially as technology is becoming ever more present.
How is technology affecting design?
No matter how technology creeps around us, we still believe in the human aspect; the driver is in the middle and is always the focus. So whether it's interior or exterior, that soul has to remain.
Brand loyalty is eroding in this age. Would you ever give up your design philosophy to ensure that everyone is happy?
The new generation customer is changing and perhaps it may be more pronounced in regions such as this or in Asia. We want to keep our customers but as a designer, I would not do it at any cost. If they want pink cars that are narrow and high, they can go somewhere else
Most of our customers, whether they switch or go back and forth, come to us for the BMW experience. I think there's a loyalty to that experience. So we make sure that experience is complete.
What do you think is the future for automotive design?
In terms of deign, new technology like automated driving will at a certain time change the way cars are and how they look. The technology for automated driving is there, but the current laws state that we cannot do anything where you don't have your hands on the wheel. But when that legislation is approved, you can expect cars to perhaps not be as uniformed as they are now.
Of all your deign inspirations, which one has had the most impact?
Most of the time, it's all architecture. I love architecture and the way architects today play with forms, shapes and materials. In terms of transferring that inspiration from a building to a car, it's tough because there's a certain protocol with cars remaining in the same form. Nevertheless we can do concept cars and experiment. Next year will be BMW's 100th year anniversary and maybe you will see something special. I am really excited about this.
So tell us what's changed with this new 7-Series?
The 7-Series is the flagship and its status is very important. Where better to see the status than in the front of the vehicle. The front is all about status and presence and we have made the BMW signature kidneys bigger than ever before to symbolise that status.
Inside, the big step is the touch command in the rear that takes the place of the iDrive control. But best of all, if you want the most luxurious 7-Series, you can opt for our individual programme which can be elevated to something that's never been done before. Here you can have luxurious features such as lambswool carpet or diamond-encrusted wood finisher on the dashboard. It's only available in the Middle East!