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Kia hires ex-Mercedes, BMW designers

March 26, 2024 - 15:41 By Moon Joon-hyun
Oliver Samson (left), formerly of Mercedes-Benz, and Lim Seung-mo, who previously worked with BMW, will take over as heads of the Kia Design Center Europe and the Kia Design Center China, respectively, starting April 1. (Kia)

Kia Corp. on Tuesday announced it has appointed two former designers from Mercedes-Benz and BMW to head its design centers in Europe and China, respectively.

Oliver Samson, previously with Mercedes-Benz, and Lim Seung-mo, formerly of BMW, will take on their new roles as head of the Kia Design Center Europe and head of the Kia Design Center China, respectively, on April 1. Samson and Lim will report to Karim Habib, executive vice president and head of Kia Global Design.

The appointments are expected to encourage collaboration and competition among the carmaker's regional design centers, the company said in the announcement.

Samson's career in design started at the Hyundai and Kia European Design Center in 2003, followed by roles at Changan Automobile, Nio and Mercedes-Benz. While at Mercedes-Benz, he led several key design projects including the development of the EQ Silver Arrow and the Maybach Mercedes-Maybach 6.

Lim began his career at BMW Group in 2010, where he led the exterior design of the BMW i4 and Series 4, and later took leadership roles at Didi Chuxing Technology and Geely Motors, steering design innovation in electric vehicles and various model developments.

"Gathering diverse talents like these helps us truly live out our 'Opposites United' design mantra, crafting designs that break new ground and resonate with our customers," said Habib.

Kia's design philosophy, dubbed "Opposites United," aims to integrate diverse and contrasting elements to create harmonious vehicle designs. This includes the combination of warm and cold colors, traditional and futuristic elements, and the incorporation of organic shapes with advanced technology.

The appointments of Samson and Lim come as part of Kia’s efforts to infuse global talent into its design ethos, a practice that gained prominence with the hiring of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer as chief design officer in 2006. Schreyer's influence led to the creation of acclaimed models like the Kia K5 sedan, the Soul and the Stinger SUV, as well as the introduction of the distinctive tiger nose grille.

Kia appointed former BMW designer Jochen Paesen as vice president of interior design in 2020, and welcomed John Buckingham, another distinguished BMW designer, as the leader of Kia’s Next Design Exterior Group last year.