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Top Aussie auto exec leaves Infiniti in US

Global roaming: Michael Bartsch has left Infiniti in the US after a year and a half as vice-president of the Americas region, having previously spent nine years at Porsche Cars North America.

Infiniti Americas chief Michael Bartsch leaves company ‘to pursue other interests’

General News logo19 Feb 2015

FORMER Porsche Cars Australia sales and marketing director Michael Bartsch has stepped down as head of Infiniti’s Americas region in the United States.

The experienced global car industry executive was in the key position at Nissan’s luxury brand for just shy of 18 months, having previously served as chief operating officer for Porsche Cars North America – the German sportscar manufacturer’s single biggest market – for almost nine years.

In a statement released this week, Infiniti Motor Co said Mr Bartsch, 56, would “leave the company to pursue other interests” and that Nissan North America’s western region vice-president Randy Parker would take his job, effective immediately.

The company said the leadership change was aimed at “growing the brand’s presence in the United States” – Infiniti’s biggest market but one in which it has struggled to improve its sales and market share, despite a resurgence in general luxury car sales.

Infiniti sold 117,300 vehicles in the US last year, up one per cent compared to 2013 as the luxury segment across the board grew six per cent. The previous year, sales had fallen two per cent.

Overseas reports indicate that both Infiniti and Nissan management in the US are under pressure to achieve ambitious targets set by supreme commander Carlos Ghosn.

These include a 10 per cent combined Nissan and Infiniti US market share by March 2017, up from 8.4 per cent at the end of last year.

Globally, Infiniti posted 186,200 sales across 19 markets last year, up 13.5 per cent, but substantial ongoing growth is required for it to meet Mr Ghosn’s ambitious target of 500,000 annual sales by 2017. The target for 2020 is 600,000 sales a year.

Four months prior to his move to Infiniti in September 2013, Porsche Cars Australia announced that Mr Bartsch was returning to Australia as the company’s new managing director to replace Michael Winkler, who was leaving the company and, five months later, was appointed managing director of Jaguar Land Rover Australia.

However, Mr Bartsch elected to remain in the US – family reasons apparently figuring heavily in his decision – and was subsequently hired to lead Infiniti in the United States and Canada, overseeing the brand’s strategic direction, planning, sales and marketing efforts across North America.

Mr Bartsch’s departure follows the exit of his former boss, Infiniti’s worldwide president Johan de Nysschen, who left the Hong Kong-based company in July last year to become head of General Motors’ Cadillac brand.

Since then, Mr Bartsch had reported to Infiniti’s new global chief Roland Krueger and, according to US reports, was also required to work more closely with Nissan North America chairman Jose Munoz, who increased his involvement in the luxury brand after Mr de Nysschen left the company.

It is unclear if Mr Bartsch will remain in the US or return to Australia.

GoAuto understands he was still residing in Atlanta, where Porsche Cars North America is based, and commuting to Infiniti’s US headquarters in Nashville, almost 400km away.

He has four children, one of whom was studying in Australia, another who was attending Georgia Tech and two more at school in Atlanta.

Mr Bartsch holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Macquarie University in Sydney.

He started his automotive career as a district sales manager with Holden and later served as marketing manager of product, planning, promotions and public relations for Hyundai Automotive Distributor Australia (HADA), the former independent distributor of the South Korean brand.

His involvement in Porsche began in 1984 when he joined York Motors in Sydney, and he later became director of Porsche Centre Melbourne.

He joined Porsche Cars Australia as marketing manager in 1994, rising to sales and marketing director before heading to Porsche Cars North America as executive vice-president and COO in 2004.

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