PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Hoping to reverse its U.S. sales decline, Infiniti has hired Porsche's No. 2 U.S. executive, Michael Bartsch, as its top executive in the Americas.
Bartsch, 54, will replace Ben Poore next month in the latest in a series of global personnel changes for Nissan's luxury brand.
Bartsch, a native of Australia with dual Australian-German citizenship, has been COO and executive vice president of Porsche Cars North America since 2005. He had been scheduled to become CEO of Porsche Cars Australia on Sept. 1. In May, Porsche said Joe Lawrence would succeed Bartsch as COO.
Poore, 47, will step down as vice president of Infiniti Americas to pursue a business interest outside the auto industry, Infiniti said. He will remain on the Infiniti board through September.
Also last week, Infiniti named Vincent Gillet, a former executive at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, to lead the brand's global marketing efforts. In addition, Simon Cox, 53, was named to head a new Infiniti design studio in London. Cox has worked at Ford, Peugeot and General Motors among other automakers.
Poore's U.S. operations have been the cornerstone of Infiniti's business since he stepped into the lead U.S. role of vice president in 2008. Poore, formerly group marketing manager for Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln Mercury division, has helped mold Infiniti's Japanese-luxury identity into a European-leaning rival of Audi.
But the past two years have been a sales challenge. Despite being overshadowed in the market by the furious competition between its bigger luxury competitors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, Infiniti pulled off a 22 percent sales increase last year, or 119,877 vehicles.
But since then, Infiniti sales have sagged as its volume leader, the G37, wound down to be replaced this summer. Through July, Infiniti sold 59,995 vehicles, down 9 percent from the first seven months of 2012.