Infiniti loses design chief Karim Habib, gains Taisuke Nakamura
Taisuke Nakamura, who drew Infiniti’s recent QX Inspiration and Prototype 10 concepts, will be taking the helm as global design chief at Nissan’s luxury brand, replacing Karim Habib. Habib, who is leaving the company “to pursue other opportunities,” came to Infiniti in 2017 from BMW, where he was global design chief. The change in styling management comes as Infiniti is set to roll out a new design language as the brand launches a wave of electric vehicles.
Infiniti has been going through a number of changes lately: withdrawing from Europe; moving its headquarters back to Japan from Hong Kong (which may have been prescient in light of a possible Chinese crackdown on the former British colony); and centering its focus on the U.S. market, the brand’s best market. Year-to-date Infiniti sales in the U.S. are down 13 percent to 71,718 units through the first seven months of 2019.
The Infiniti brand and its Nissan parent have seen personnel changes as well, with a number of high-ranking, non-Japanese executives leaving the companies in the wake of former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s legal difficulties in Japan. Daniele Schillaci, former Nissan vice president for global marketing and sales, left to head Brembo, and José Muñoz, chief performance officer at Nissan, is now a senior executive at Hyundai. Trevor Mann, who was chief operating officer at Nissan-controlled Mitsubishi, also left the alliance. Infiniti president Christian Meunier left to run Jeep for FCA after only four months on the job. His predecessor, Roland Krueger, had departed to head vacuum-maker Dyson’s automotive startup venture.
Perhaps choosing a long-term Nissan employee as styling chief will help stabilize things.
Nakamura, 49 (and no relation to former Nissan styling head Shiro Nakamura), will start his new job on September 1st. A native of Kyoto, he started at Nissan in 1993. He was previously design director at Nissan Design Europe’s London studio, where he led the programs of the Emerg-E sports car and Q30 hatchback concept for Infiniti in addition to the Gripz concept and Qashqai production CUV for Nissan.