Nissan increases importance of its UK unit image

The UK becomes an increasingly crucial location for the Japanese automaker, which aims to topple Toyota as Europe’s top-selling Asian brand by 2016.

British executives have increased their global importance within Nissan and the rise has coincided with the enormous success of the automaker’s plant in Sunderland, northeast England.

Last month, British executives Andy Palmer and Trevor Mann were promoted to the top echelon just below Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in a reorganization that saw the company’s chief operating officer role split into three different posts.

In the same month, Nissan unveiled the new Qashqai, the second-generation of the breakthrough compact crossover built in Sunderland. The crossover has been so successful that even in its run-out year it was the region’s No. 8-seller through three quarters, according to JATO Dynamics.

As part of Nissan’s management changes Mann, 52, becomes the company’s global chief performance officer. The former head of the Sunderland plant starts his new job on Jan. 1 while also remaining Nissan head of Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East. Nissan’s current chief performance officer, Briton Colin Dodge, 58, was given a new role managing special projects and will report directly to Ghosn. Dodge also starts the new job on Jan. 1.

Palmer, 50, the current head of global product planning and marketing, became chief planning officer last month. He leads global sales, product planning, communications and marketing. In addition, Palmer will oversee Nissan’s electric vehicle and battery business.

Also last month Nissan promoted Daniel Griffiths, a 55-year-old native of Northern Ireland, to managing director of its European operations and head of global labor relations. The changes take effect on Jan. 1. Griffiths, who was personnel director at the Sunderland plant from 2006 until 2008, keeps his current job as chief security officer for Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East.

Could a Briton eventually lead the company? Ghosn says he wants a Japanese national to succeed him at the helm. But even with such intentions, the UK’s importance to Nissan is growing.

Via Automotive News Europe