TOKYO -- Shiro Nakamura, the slick-suited, mustachioed design maestro who graduated from trucks to penning some of Nissan’s most daring and memorable vehicles, will retire after 17 years of pursuing cutting-edge looks that put Japan’s No. 2 carmaker on the map for its styling.
Nakamura steps down amid a wider design shuffle at Nissan Motor Co. that promotes a new generation of stylists, one from inside the company, another from a Germany luxury rival.
Karim Habib, the former head of design at BMW, has been named as global design chief for Nissan’s premium Infiniti brand. Alfonso Albaisa, currently the head of Infiniti design, has been promoted to senior vice president of global design for all of Nissan Motor Co.
Nakamura, 66, who currently serves as senior vice president and chief creative officer, will retire on March 31. Albaisa, 52, takes the reins the following day. Habib, 46, joins Infiniti on July 1.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Albaisa said by email of his appointment to succeed Nakamura.
The personnel shuffle was announced on Tuesday by Nissan and Infiniti in separate statements.
Habib, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, will be based at Nissan’s global technical and design center in Atsugi, Japan, just south of Tokyo, and report to Ablaisa.
“Karim has a strong background and impressive track record in automotive design and the knowledge and mindset to develop a global premium brand” said Infiniti President Roland Krueger, another a BMW transplant. “Design is one of the key pillars of our global brand development at Infiniti. Karim brings unique design skills that will accelerate Infiniti’s progress toward the goal of capturing and expanding our share in the global luxury market.”
At BMW, Habib was responsible for such production and concept cars as the X1, the X2 Concept and the CSL Homage. Before BMW, he worked as head of advanced design for Daimler and helped develop the current Mercedes-Benz C class. News of Habib’s departure from BMW first surfaced in January. At the time, it was unclear what he would be doing next.