BMW design starts a new era under Head of Design Jozef Kaban

Interesting | October 8th, 2017 by 66
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The abrupt and unexpected departure of the talented and highly appreciated BMW Head of Design Karim Habib has left a void in the design team in Munich. Habib is highly esteemed in the design circles and within the BMW design team, and has been a tremendous inspiration for many young designers at BMW, so his departure came as a shock. The reasons behind his departure are still a taboo subject in Munich and not the subject of this article today.

Jozef Kaban BMW 501x750

A month after his leave in January 2017, BMW has issued a press statement welcoming their new Chief of Design – Slovakia-born Jozef Kaban. Kaban made a name for himself early when he designed the Bugatti Veyron while still in his 20s. He was named chief of Skoda design at 35 after being head of exterior design at sister brand Audi.

This is the first time Kaban leaves the VW Group. For twenty years he worked in Wolfsburg, his first models were VW Lupo and Seat Arosa, but without a doubt, his masterpiece is the Bugatti Veyron design. Kaban was also responsible for the Vision C Concept and the well-rated new Skoda Kodiaq and Karoq SUVs.

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In an interview with DriveMag earlier this year, Kaban was asked how difficult it is to go from designing a $1,500,000 car, the Bugatti Veyron, or head the design of a volume brand like Skoda.

“His answer was simple: when he designed for Audi and Bugatti, he had fewer constraints and his main drive was to create a dream car, something that will be cherished and met with awe. Designing for Škoda meant he had to adapt to severe cost limits and do his best while thinking about how to charm the common man. Finding inspiration in Bohemian crystals, for example, and bringing a touch of passion to a brand that is all about practicality.”

Kaban’s departure from VW Group was also unexpected, explained mostly by the gap in employment between February 2017 and October 1, which was Kaban’s first day in Munich. Likely a non-compete clause in his contract delayed the beginning of his tenure at BMW, but that’s not something we could precisely confirm.

Many people we spoke with at the Frankfurt Motor Show have referred to Kaban as a visionary designer rather than a conservative one, so his arrival at BMW might be exactly what the brand needs in the next decade. BMW’s designs in the last years have been often labeled as being too conservative and not revolutionary – with a few exceptions in regards to BMW Concept cars.

Yet, our sources say that in the next three years, the brand will once again deliver some emotional designs that aim to create a clear distinction and identity between different models. Our sources say that we will be pleasantly surprised. Habib will receive credit for those next models.

Kaban’s first design ideas will likely see the light of day in the next generation 5 and 7 Series, which are just getting started in Munich. Without a doubt, we will also see his visionary influence in future concept cars and potentially niche models which are still in the planning stages.

The design team continues to report to Adrian Van Hooydonk – in charge of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce design – but the arrival of Kaban, who will team up with another talented and visionary designer – Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW i and M Design, will give BMW some new and fresh ideas that hopefully will spawn some exciting projects for BMW customers. And maybe that true BMW supercar we’ve been dreaming of.

[Leading Photo: DriveMag]

66 responses to “BMW design starts a new era under Head of Design Jozef Kaban”

  1. Dailybimmer says:

    The only thing Kaban and the guy can do for Bmw is to make Bmw less interesting,

    • Horatiu B. says:

      I doubt it. He will do great.

      • Dailybimmer says:

        This guy comes directly from Skoda, a cheaper second version of VW from Czech republik. I don’t want to see any design cues like Kidney gril or anything else from Skoda on future Bmw cars. I doubt he will help Bmw to make the Bmw’s more exciting than tbe current line up. Only time will tell.

        • Arunabh says:

          BMW has always had an amalgamation of designers from various nationalities and they have done (mostly !!) wonders to its car designs.

          an average legacy doesn’t hold much credence if creativity is there and great legacy doesn’t hold any credence if it isn’t moving forward.

          • Dailybimmer says:

            A giant leap for Kaban and a small step for Bmw. Sad but true.

          • disqus_d4cEcykOJC says:

            NOT true! Skoda is ONE brand, why do you selectively ignore Bugatti, Audi & the rest? He has extensive education, training & experience with one of the largest manufacturers, BMW are expanding, he sounds like an ideal candidate & they are lucky to have him. You cannot base future performance on past – compare Bangle’s work @ Fiat with his time @ BMW, to name one.

        • Fritz says:

          Why would Kaban put design cues from Škoda on a BMW?

          • Dailybimmer says:

            Ask him. I see it coming.
            We won’t see a “Veyron” from Bmw but it’s possible to see his Skoda kidney grill and headlights on future Bmw cars.

          • disqus_d4cEcykOJC says:

            Design, esp. corporate design, is collaborative. BMW kidneys & headlights have been changing for 80 yrs. Even if it doesn’t seem like it.

          • Dailybimmer says:

            Skoda’s kidney grill looks already like a bad interpretation of Bmw Kidney grill.

  2. Dailybimmer says:

    I believe he will mess up the headlights and the kidney grill of future Bmw cars.

  3. Dailybimmer says:

    @ Horatiu B.

    Next Bmw designer has to be from Bavaria. Bavaria first.

    • disqus_d4cEcykOJC says:

      BMW are global. They have been using Italian designers since their post-war Pininfarina concept (looked like an Alfa with kidney grilles). Paul Bracq, who came from Mercedes to lead BMW Design in 1970, was French. Michelotti, Bertone, Bangle, Von Hooydonk. They’ve built British & Italian cars under license, now they manufacture in the Netherlands, Austria, South Africa, America, soon Mexico. Global Motor Works.

      • Dailybimmer says:

        I have no problems with those you have mentioned but someone who came from a cheap brand like Skoda….either someone from Bavaria or from Italy I would have wanted for Bmw.

  4. M. says:

    The F01 with its “Habib nose” hasn’t dated very well and is looking quite cheap today; I think this is happening only for the front end, because the rear of the car is keeping its attitude – massive and dominant.
    Thinking about the 5 series, the G30 is by far too understated and soft in looks department and cannot stand against F10, let alone E60 or E39… Oh, and the 3 series is looking like a fast and very skinny athlete.
    On the other hand the Concept CS, which is, oh God, another car that still looks fresh today – presented in 2007(!) – was Karim Habib’s job too…

  5. JRobUSC says:

    So, do we not know why Habib left suddenly? Or do we know but aren’t saying?

  6. bmw driver says:

    I’m told Habib was fired after management found his secret design for a BMW that was a colossal pair of kidney grilles 8m high with wheels.

  7. Pictor says:

    With the exception of the recent concepts, BMW has turned a bit boring. I’m almost longing for Chris B to come back. While he was polarizing, you cannot say he was boring. Adrian’s designs may have been another contributor to the dullness of some of the vehicles out of Munich.

    Now, the recent concepts are interesting on the outside (except for the X7 – please burn that concept and try again). But they’re concepts. The Frankfurt show was telling in that almost everything was a concept which really just tells me that the industry was caught flat footed.

  8. Arunabh says:

    I am sure this guy will bring back the BMWness to BMW designs.

    BMWs are not about pleasing all. Its about being itself and let people debate whether they like it or hate it. (and don’t be bothered about it)

    This is the best BMW news since M2. i am already feeling as if its Christmas already.

    • Dailybimmer says:

      when was a german, a italian or briton responsible for Bmw design the last time?

      • disqus_d4cEcykOJC says:

        Since when is talent determined by nation of origin? He has decades of production experience with one of the largest global multinational manufacturers. I am Canadian, I am surrounded by proof that where you come from is no limit to what you can achieve. Stop building fake walls. You think no German, Italian or Briton has made an ugly car? HAH!

  9. Distiller says:

    If Kaban applies the philosophy he developed at Skoda to BMW, I expect BMW to go more towards “engineers cars” (that term makes more sense in German). Possibly also less bloated than currently. Habib’s designs were nice but did not have the potential to move BMW forward.

  10. Giom says:

    The way I see it, the biggest problem at BMW is not the design department, it’s the board. Each and every design is rejected or approved by these guys. Many designs – exciting, progressive and emotional ideas get tossed out in favor of conservative/safe directions. Do you guys here really think that the designers over at BMW can’t design exciting, emotional cars? Of course they can and they do.

    Where Bangle excelled at was his selling ability. He was able to sway the board – he took charge and got things done his way. One of the reasons, I believe, he was let go. Van Hooydonk is a diplomat and plays the corporate game – he loves his job.

    If this Kaban isn’t good at selling his designs, he will be no different to Karim and hence forth, BMW design will stay where it is today. This is the sad truth about corporate design. BMW doesn’t need another good designer, it needs new thinking at the top.

    • Arunabh says:

      An excellent point !!

      But i think this ultra conservatism is bound to change going forward. I think, probably barring China, BMW designs are getting lots of flak majorly for designs (not excelling at Driving dynamics as emphatically as in the past, is a close second).

      And these guys understand this. They weren’t changing themselves because it was working for them. Now, they have reached a point where they have to change themselves as they know that it won’t work for them going forward. Currently, they are just riding on the success wave of yesteryear’s products. This wave will die at some point of time.

      Most people here try to argue that profits and revenues are better than ever before and thus these models are hit but they fail to realize that Luxury car segment cake itself has grown exponentially in the past decade as overall wealth of the world has grown considerably. In relative context, the size of slice of BMW’s share isn’t growing as fast as slices of other brands are.

      Now, to keep the cash registers ringing change has become a necessity.

      My 2 cents on your point.

    • Dailybimmer says:

      Of all top premium designers in the world, how did Bmw come to Kaban as a Bmw chief designer? I mean, Bmw has all the money in the world, they could buy the best premium designers and the only designer that Bmw can get now is a second class slovakian designer who came directly from Skoda to Bmw ? Wtf?

      • disqus_d4cEcykOJC says:

        Wtf is with you?

      • Arunabh says:

        I think you are simply blinded by the brand BMW’s German roots.

        Chris Bangle was American. Mr. hooydonk is dutch, i believe. Interiors of last 5&7 were done by an Iranian. The undisputed best looking 5er ever, E39, was penned by a japanese. Mr. Habib’s name clearly suggests that his ancestry is from outside Germany.

        Almost all the european car makers outsource the entire electronic related stuff to South Korea for development and production.

        How much of Germany did you find there?

    • disqus_d4cEcykOJC says:

      Bangle & his employer took endless grief for the 745i, despite the fact it wasn’t his design & that it led to BMW becoming #1 volume premium for the 1st time. Bangle was getting so much (negative) attention he was profiled in the NY Times. I became a fan of his based on his responses to idiot questions, such as why the high performance M6 needed a B-pillar. Based on his experience, he predicted everyone in the future would have their own personal hate sites – prescient! BMW deferred introducing the 4 Series moniker because they were getting so much grief over Bangle butt (to this day and still not Bangle) & iDrive. Of course the pendulum reversed, but as 8, Z4 & X7 Concepts show, it is turning again. BMW sacked two heads in the ’90’s when their Rover takeover failed, both were immediately hired by the competition. And now survivor of that era MINI is worth $5 billion.

  11. Dailybimmer says:

    Merc has a german designer, Porsche and Audi also. Why shouldn’t Bmw have one?Kaban is good designing second and third class cars, but no Bmw.

  12. curamrda says:

    aahh shit.. thats the end of BMW … as i see his last shitt in reality…

    I am going to vomit !!!

  13. Lowhook says:

    I just came here in hopes of finding out who I can blame for the trend at BMW for these horrible large grilles. It has become laughable and I think my current 2015 535 ix will be my last BMW.

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