New Nissan sales boss to lead pursuit of Honda
NASHVILLE -- Nissan's bold ambition to supplant Honda as America's No. 2 import brand is losing the momentum it had earlier this year. The automaker now hopes a new sales and marketing chief will stoke the effort.
Last week, Brian Carolin, 56, said that he will retire next spring as senior vice president for U.S. and Canadian sales and marketing, a job he has held since arriving from Nissan of Europe in 2008.
Stepping in behind him will be Jose Munoz, 47, who has jolted Nissan's performance in Mexico and Latin America the past three years. Under Munoz, as senior vice president for sales and marketing in Latin America, Nissan has become the biggest brand in Mexico, garnering a 25 percent market share.
Munoz will now oversee Nissan and Infiniti's sales and marketing strategy from Canada to the southern tip of Argentina. He also will continue responsibility for customer quality and dealer network development for the entire region.
Nissan and Infiniti have struggled over the past two years to improve customer satisfaction with their U.S. retail experience, and the brands have been making headway under Munoz, who holds a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and an M.B.A. from universities in his native Spain. In Mexico, Munoz made a name for himself by weeding out underperforming retailers, signing up new ones and improving distribution efficiency.
"I've met Munoz, and he is very intense," said one multipoint Nissan dealer who asked not to be named. "He's a smart guy who really understands throughput. He's going to help us move things along."
The change takes effect April 1.
Nissan and Infiniti are increasing sales this year. But the past few months have not been kind to the automaker's dream of overtaking Honda in the United States.
A year ago the challenge looked plausible. Because Nissan had bounced back quickly from the supply chaos of the 2011 Japanese earthquake, Nissan's market share was climbing while the shares of rivals Honda and Toyota were falling.
Colin Dodge, whose multiple jobs with Nissan Motor Co. in Japan include chairman over the Americas, said last year that it would be natural for Nissan to overtake Honda in the United States. The United States is one of only a few markets worldwide where Nissan does not outsell Honda, he reasoned.
At the end of 2011, the Nissan brand had increased to a 7.4 percent share, while the Honda brand had fallen to an 8.0 percent share.
Nissan may have underestimated the consumer power the Honda name has in the United States. Both Honda and Toyota have made startling gains in market share in 2012. As of the end of November, Honda's share had risen to 8.8 percent while Nissan's had fallen to 7.1 -- even though its sales are rising.
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