Hans Greimel
Hans Greimel
Asia Editor, Tokyo

How Infiniti will move ahead without de Nysschen

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TOKYO -- It’s unsettling when a newly-hired executive bolts for the door after a short stay, without achieving his goals.

Dealers and employees at Infiniti understandably may feel some unease following today's news that President Johan de Nysschen is leaving the brand after just two years to take over as president of Cadillac. 

To be sure, de Nysschen's unexpected departure to General Motors comes at a delicate time for the luxury brand, just as things were falling into place. But that is exactly why they needn’t worry.

Infiniti is a radically transformed brand from 2012, when Nissan Motor Corp. CEO Carlos Ghosn poached de Nysschen from his perch as president of Audi of America.

It is much, much stronger. Just tick off the list:

• Sales are charting record highs.

• Volume is growing in 31 global markets.

• Production is planned in Britain, China and Mexico.

• Joint projects with Mercedes are bearing fruit.

• A slew of new product in on the way.

• The favorable yen exchange rate is shoring up profits.

De Nysschen had a big hand in delivering some of these successes. He was popular with dealers, adept at big-picture strategy and pragmatically grounded in reality.

But he can’t take sole credit for the revival. Much was engineered and in motion before he arrived.

Indeed, many of the ideas were the brainchild of longtime Infiniti patriarch Andy Palmer, the Nissan executive vice president and chief planning officer who has overseen Infiniti since 2009 on Nissan Motor’s management council.

The good news for Infiniti: Palmer will still be at the helm.

“I’ll be stepping into the role of Infiniti president and ensuring continuity during the period in which we look for a new president,” Palmer said. “We’re certainly strong enough to ride this through, and the momentum will carry us through.”

Also still in place will be an extensive team of dedicated Infinti-only marketers, sales people, engineers, product planners and designers that didn’t even exist two years ago.

So despite losing de Nysschen, Infiniti arguably has the best infrastructure it has ever had to keep the revival moving.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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