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Zagato Coupe concept. (BMW/BMW)
Zagato Coupe concept. (BMW/BMW)

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Canadian has designs on BMW cars Add to ...

BMW’s new head of design has a Canadian passport, as well as a hand in the design of BMW’s latest new concept, the Zagato Coupe. The one-off design study was introduced this past weekend at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2012 in Italy.

And while Norihiko Harada, Italian coachbuilder Zagato’s chief designer, and Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW senior vice-president of design, took the main bows at the posh unveiling on the shores of Lake Como, photos released by BMW chronicling the concept’s development reveal a close collaboration with Karim Habib, a Lebanese-born Canadian who officially becomes head of BMW Design on June 1.

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He had been in charge of BMW exterior design since March 2011, after returning from a high-profile but not-quite two-year defection to key rival Mercedes-Benz, where he handled the exterior design of its advanced F-vehicle concepts. Habib’s rolling design credits include the current BMW 7-Series, as well as the BMW CS concept from 2007 that presaged the wider, lower and somewhat more conservative looks of the recently redesigned BMW 6-Series and Z4 Roadster.

The 42-year-old Habib was born in Beirut, and lived in various spots in Europe before moving to Montreal as a child. He grew up there and eventually attended McGill, earning an engineering degree, a rarity amongst artsy automotive designers. He then studied automotive design in both Switzerland and then California, ending up with BMW in Munich soon after his design studies were complete.

No official word on whether there are production plans in the works for the Zagato Coupe, which appears to be a highly stylized fixed-hardtop version of the Z4 Roadster. The standard Z4 has a folding metal hardtop, which may help explain why no coupe version of the car has been confirmed for production, as there was for the last-generation Z4. But the Zagato hardtop confirms that BMW is at least looking in that direction.

Mazda, Alfa Romeo to collaborate on new convertible sports car

Mazda and Fiat have confirmed that they have signed an agreement to produce both Mazda and Alfa Romeo versions of the successor to Mazda’s still popular MX-5 two-seat roadster.

The two rear-wheel-drive sports cars will be styled completely independently, and each company will provide its own engine that suits each brand’s characteristics, the companies confirmed in a joint statement last week.

The two vehicles are expected to be built in the Japanese plant where the current MX-5 is built, though Reuters reported that Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Alfa parent Fiat, suggested this week that the partnership may also open the door to building Mazda vehicles at any underutilized plants around the world.

Marchionne said Fiat would continue to look at other such alliances to help it save costs while producing new products.

Nissan launches tire pressure inflation helper

Nissan is moving to a new tire pressure inflation system on the 2013 Altima that will help drivers inflating their tires know when the correct pressure is reached by automatically honking the horn.

So drivers won’t have to hunt around in the owner’s manual or on the door jam for the correct pressure, or continually stop to check pressure with a tire gauge.

Unlike some current tire pressure monitoring systems, Nissan’s new system will display air pressures for individual tires, indicating which need air.

It may not be a system for the easily spooked. Once the driver stops at a station and starts inflating the tire, Nissan’s ‘Easy Fill Tire Alert’ system will start the four-way flashers to indicate that it is receiving air. The horn will then honk once the correct pressure is sensed.

Should the driver put in too much air, the four-ways flash in fast-forward mode and the horn sounds three times. Assuming one understands Nissan Easy-Fill-ese, and therefore lets out the excess air, another single horn beep will confirm the arrival of the correct pressure.

Dodge Caravan will be only Chrysler minivan

Chrysler the company will be moving to one minivan, while Chrysler the brand will reportedly be moving to none.

The Dodge Grand Caravan will be redesigned for 2014, at which point the Chrysler Town & Country minivan will die, to be replaced by a crossover, according to Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The company is also cutting other so-called “badge-engineered” vehicles: the Jeep Compass will also be spiked that year, which is supposed to be a more aerodynamic sibling to the blocky Jeep Patriot, according to Automotive News. It dropped the Compass’ Dodge counterpart, the Nitro, last year.

Such badge-engineered vehicles are remnants of a not-so-distant past where many of Chrysler’s brands were housed in separate dealerships, and therefore the dealers all pushed for various versions of the same vehicle to make sure they all had the most volume sellers.

Marchionne was speaking at the Belvedere, Ill., assembly plant of the Dodge Dart, where he confirmed that a hotter SRT version of the Dart is also coming, without going into specifics on when or with how much extra power.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

Correction: An earlier online version of this story contained incorrect information on Nissan's new tire pressure inflation system. This has been amended.

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