Nissan plucks one of Hyundai's sales stars

UPDATED: 1/7/14 3:18 pm ET - adds link

NASHVILLE -- Nissan has recruited a rising star from Hyundai to take over its U.S. sales operations as Nissan reorganizes its North American management structure.

Derrick Hatami, 40, had been general manager of Hyundai Motor America's 12-state western region for the past three years, in charge of creating the Korean brand's retail strategy for 160 dealers there.

The MIT alum will become Nissan's vice president of U.S. sales, reporting to Fred Diaz, Nissan senior vice president for U.S. sales, marketing, parts and service, the company said in a statement today.

Hatami will be responsible for sales, vehicle operations, light commercial vehicles and fleet functions under Diaz.

The assignment becomes effective Jan. 13.

While in his previous post, Hatami helped Hyundai rise from a 4.5 percent market share in the region to a 7.8 percent share, according to Nissan.

Nissan is currently on a mission to obtain a 10 percent U.S. market share and overtake Honda to become the No. 2 Asian brand in the United States. The company began reorganizing its top team late last year after Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn expressed frustration that the company was not making fast enough progress.

Nissan Division closed 2013 with a 7.3 percent U.S. market share for the year, up from 7.1 percent in 2012.

Under the new team, Diaz reports to Jose Munoz, a former Toyota executive in Europe, who boosted Nissan's market share in Mexico to 25 percent.

Munoz last year was promoted to the role of chairman for Nissan in North America.

Hatami, a onetime automotive consultant for J.D. Power & Associates, also helped Hyundai devise its growth strategies of the past decade. With corporate posts in strategic planning and sales planning, he played key roles in setting Hyundai vehicle prices, incentive programs, long-term business plans and certified pre-owned efforts.

Nissan is eager to make progress on several fronts, including boosting sales of its fledgling line of commercial vehicles.

Nissan Division saw record sales of 1,131,965 cars and trucks in 2013, an 11 percent increase from 2012.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at

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