Aston’s gain is Infiniti’s loss

SOURCE:
This is written by Martin Kahl who is the editor of Automotive World. Their website is http://www.automotiveworld.com

The surprise departure in July of Infiniti’s Chief Executive, Johan de Nysschen – who headed to Detroit to take up the role of President at Cadillac – left a void at the top of Nissan’s premium car brand. To fill that void, Nissan’s Chief Planning Officer and Executive Vice President Andy Palmer stepped in as caretaker-manager.

That Palmer has been announced as the new Chief Executive of Aston Martin is as surprising as the news that he will leave Nissan, where he has been since 1991.

Just as Cadillac rejoiced when it signed de Nysschen, this is a victory for Aston Martin. The English sports car brand now has an Englishman at the helm – and he’s considered the most powerful Briton in the automotive industry.

It’s a victory for Palmer, too. He heads home after many years living in Tokyo, and gets to be the Chief Executive of a domestic performance car brand.

But it’s a significant loss for Nissan. Palmer’s industry experience and passion for vehicles is broad – just look at his responsibilities at Nissan: Nissan’s Corporate Planning, Product Planning and Programme Management, Global Marketing Communications, Market Intelligence, Global IS/IT and Global Infiniti Business Unit. He set up Nissan’s LCV business unit a decade ago; later, he was the power behind Nissan’s taxi programme, including the New York Taxi of Tomorrow campaign and the company’s London Taxi entry.

Unlike Carlos Tavares’ departure, we know where Palmer’s going. But his departure raises a host of questions. Will this impact Nissan’s EV programme? Palmer was a major proponent of zero emission vehicles, and the EV technology that powers the Leaf and the e-NV200. Indeed, he revealed during one Automotive World interview that “the NV200 was going to be the first electric vehicle. But if we’d launched a van as the first electric car, it would have defined the EV in everybody’s mind. That was why we went with the Leaf first and the NV200 second.”

What will happen to Infiniti? Ghosn reportedly left the fate of the brand in Palmer’s hands two years ago. Palmer reportedly chose to keep it going and hire de Nysschen away from Audi to run the brand’s newly-established Hong Kong headquarters. De Nysschen brought stability and optimism to Infiniti, but there’s no hiding the fact that new product is urgently required. The Paris show will see the launch of the Q80 Inspiration, a much-needed flagship model – but it’s appearing in concept form only, and its market launch will be preceded by the Q30, a car which won’t hit dealerships until well into 2015.

Unsurprisingly, given Palmer’s aforementioned duties at Nissan, he’s not able to leave in a hurry, and a departure date has yet to be confirmed. Upon his return to the UK, he’ll begin the task of bolstering Aston Martin’s global position. The Renault-Nissan Alliance has a partnership with Daimler, and the two OEMs will jointly produce Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti products in Mexico. Daimler also has a 5% stake in Aston Martin, and an engine supply agreement.

Palmer may have a new job, but he’s sure to be speaking to old friends when he takes up his new role at Gaydon.

Martin Kahl
Editor, Automotive World

Christopher Macgowan
@chrismacgowan

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