NISSAN Australia has hinted it is about to spark a major shake-up of its Australian operations, announcing a new managing director that will lead the car maker through “the brand’s next direction”.
Nissan announced today that Stephen Lester, the managing director of Infiniti Canada, will replace current Nissan Australia chief executive Richard Emery, with the change of title reflecting the Japanese car maker’s global management titles.
However, in its statement announcing the change at the top, Nissan Asia and Oceania head Yutaka Sanada said: “Stephen Lester’s arrival at Nissan Australia coincides with our plans for the brand’s next direction and he brings to our Australian team strong experience, knowledge, and business-building skills.”
Nissan Australia spokespeople declined to comment on exactly what those plans were, although one source told Wheels the new managing director should be able to “elaborate further” once he had settled into his new role.
Nissan has struggled with ageing products in Australia, withdrawing the Micra, the Pulsar hatch, and its longstanding Y61 Patrol from the Australian market late last year in response to slowing sales, big advances made by key rivals, and tightening vehicle emissions standards.
The loss of Emery – the architect of Nissan Australia’s GT-R-based motorsport campaigns including the Australian GT series and the Bathurst 12 Hour, and its biggest supporter – now calls into question the company’s racetrack intentions beyond 2018.
Nissan Australia will remain one of the country’s last car companies with ties to the manufacturing industry once Holden closes the doors to almost 70 years of local production in late October. The Nissan Casting Australia plant in Dandenong is producing parts – believed to be the aluminium inverter casings for the all-new Nissan Leaf electric car due for a reveal late this year – as well as a series of aftermarket parts for the Navara trade ute that could also fit the upcoming Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class.