Bill Bruce, pictured circa 1990: "We wanted the customer to see that we were a different kind of car company."
LOS ANGELES -- Bill Bruce, the first general manager of Nissan's Infiniti division when it was launched in 1989, died May 28 after a lengthy battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was 70.
Bruce was a pioneer in bringing customer service pampering to automobile dealerships and customer relationships. When Infiniti was launched with an underwhelming lineup, the customer service credo Bruce preached to his employees and dealers was a key factor that kept Infiniti in the luxury game.
In a 2008 interview, former Nissan product planning guru Jack Collins described Bruce as "a real gentleman and a complete advocate."
Bruce joined Nissan in 1982 after 13 years at Ford Motor Co. After spending some time in Nissan's regions, Bruce was part of the Horizon Project that created Infiniti.
Bruce was part of the team that grudgingly gave approval for the controversial "Rocks and Trees" advertising launch for the brand. Because the car lineup wasn't camera-friendly, the ad agency proposed not showing the cars at all.
"We wanted the customer to see that we were a different kind of car company, that it was stress-free car ownership," Bruce said in a 2008 interview. "But it was risky to show a beautiful ocean because it raised the car beyond the usual expectations."
Bruce retired from Nissan in 1999.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and his children, Amanda and Rob.
Funeral arrangements were not known at press time.