Auto-industry observers didn't have to wait long to find out what Johan de Nysschen was going to do after announcing on Friday that he was leaving the helm of Audi of America for another job, following a stellar six years of advancing the cause of the German premium brand in the U.S. market.
Today, Nissan announced that De Nysschen will become SVP of the Infiniti luxury brand worldwide. The 52-year-old De Nysschen will assume the post on July 1st and will be based at Infiniti's new global headquarters in Hong Kong.
"We have exciting and ambitious plans for improving the Infiniti brand including introducing new models in all markets where premium customer demand exists," stated De Nysschen's new boss, Nissan EVP Andy Palmer. The choice of De Nysschen to head the Infiniti brand is a savvy move.
Nissan's luxury marque has been faring OK over the last few years and got through the supply disruptions of last year in better shape than Toyota's Lexus or Honda's Acura brands. Infiniti introduced the new JX seven-passenger SUV this year, which has gotten off to a solid start, and Inifniti sales overall in the U.S. market are about 7 percent above a year earlier.
But if his track record at Audi of America is any indication, De Nysschen will push Infiniti harder to go higher, much in the style of his ultimate superior, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
De Nysschen led a sterling revival of the Audi brand in the U.S. market, leading an expansion and overhaul of the product line for U.S. tastes, weeding out poorly performing dealers and encouraging huge new investments in the brand by a generation of dealers who had been skeptical, boosting quality and dependability levels, and generally raising the esteem of the Audi marque across the board.
De Nysschen also positioned Audi as the brand in the U.S. market most willing to identify with clean-diesel powertrains and based some advertising around that. During his six-year tenure at the top of Audi of America, Audi also took a pioneering role in advertising in the Super Bowl, which German rivals then followed.
Audi still trails BMW and Mercedes-Benz significantly in sales in the United States, but its sales have been rising by strong double-digit rates over the last few years — they're up again 15 percent for the year to date through May — and the brand is putting long-term pressure on the fierce national rivals who hold the top spots in the American luxury market along with Lexus.
Though the top management of both Audi AG in Germany, and its parent Volkswagen AG, is being reshaped these days, it isn't clear at this point whether all of those machinations had any influence in De Nysschen's decision to leave Audi.
In any event, in his new role, De Nysschen will be competing at least obliquely with his old employer, where he worked for 19 years overall. But German, Japanese, American, Korean or Swedish, De Nysschen is likely to make every brand Infiniti competes with take notice.
[Image via Shutterstock]