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New chief takes the reins at Nissan

American way: Dan Thompson (pictured) departs as Nissan Australia CEO and managing director from April 1, to be replaced by William Peffer.

Nissan CEO Dan Thompson heads to Europe, making way for William Peffer

15 Feb 2012

NISSAN Australia announced today that CEO and managing director Dan Thompson is to move to a new role in Europe and will be replaced by fellow American William Peffer from April 1.

Mr Peffer, whose previous position was marketing communications of media director at Nissan North America, has been with the Japanese company since 2006.

He previously worked at Ford for 13 years, primarily within the Blue Oval’s North American sales operations, and has degrees in advertising communications and international finance.

Mr Thompson will become vice president of finance at Nissan Europe, based in Switzerland.

He joined Nissan Australia in March 2008 when he moved from Nissan’s Tokyo headquarters where he was general manager and financial controller for the company’s ‘general overseas markets’ region – including Australia and New Zealand.

Since then, Mr Thompson has been responsible for overseeing Australia’s contribution to Nissan’s global growth plan, referred to as GT2012, which in this country means achieving a 10 per cent market share and usurping Mazda as top full-line importer.

 center imageLeft: Incoming Nissan Australia managing director and CEO William (Bill) Peffer.

The GT2012 deadline is the end of Nissan’s 2012 financial year, March 31 2013, giving Mr Peffer just 12 months from his April 1 start date to achieve the ambitious target.

Nissan says Mr Thompson is confident that Mr Peffer’s sales, product and marketing background will help the company achieve its GT2012 objectives.

Mr Peffer’s challenge is significant, considering Nissan sold 67,926 cars last year, providing it with a 6.7 per cent market share compared with 88,333 sales for Mazda and 87,008 for Hyundai, earning respective market shares of 8.8 per cent and 8.6 per cent.

Since Mr Thompson took charge of Nissan Australia, annual sales have grown 14.7 per cent, outpacing Mazda’s 10.66 per cent growth but paling in comparison with similarly-ambitious South Korean brand Hyundai, sales for which have rocketed by 91.6 per cent since 2008.

Mr Peffer could take heart from Hyundai’s growth – which leaped from 63,207 units in 2009 to 80,038 in 2010 – proving huge leaps in growth are possible for high-volume players in this market.

New products on the launch pad for this year will also help keep up momentum, including an all-new Patrol SUV, a diesel engine option for the Dualis crossover and a new Micra-based Almera light sedan.

These could possibly be joined by a new X-Trail SUV – the brand’s second-best seller after the Navara one-tonne ute – which is expected to debut at Geneva next month.

The groundbreaking Leaf electric car and luxurious Infiniti line-up are also set to arrive in Australia during 2012, although these are unlikely to make significant contributions to volume.

Nissan’s new Pulsar small car will follow early next year, although this volume-booster will be cutting it fine to have an impact on GT2012.

Later in 2013, the all-new American-built Pathfinder will arrive, along with the Maxima large car replacement.

During his tenure at Nissan Australia, Mr Thompson has overseen the establishment of an in-house finance company and secured global contracts for the production of cast aluminium components for the Leaf EV and Nissan accessories, such as tow bars, at the company’s Dandenong casting plant in Victoria.

He also secured the aforementioned Leaf’s introduction to Australia, as well as Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti.

Most recently, the Thompson-led organisation announced it will enter the V8 Supercars race series from 2013, using its participation to launch an all-new American-built large sedan onto the Australian market.

Nissan Australia’s strategy of sourcing vehicles from factories all over the world has helped it weather the impact of last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Thai floods and global currency fluctuations.

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