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Nissan Poaches U.S. Audi Chief to Run Infiniti Brand

Audi AG's America's President Johan de Nysschen
Johan de Nysschen, president of Audi AG's America unit has been named by Nissan Motor Co. to head up its Infiniti luxury brand as of July 1. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second-largest carmaker, named Johan de Nysschen, who had led competitor Audi in the U.S., as head of its Infiniti luxury brand.

Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, who moved the unit’s headquarters to Hong Kong last month to boost China sales, wants to more than triple Infiniti sales to 500,000 units in five years. Ghosn intends to raise Nissan’s share of the global luxury car market to 10 percent and is depending on China to drive that growth as it challenges Volkswagen AG’s Audi, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG.

De Nysschen, who was with Audi for 19 years, had headed the luxury unit in the U.S. since December 2004 after spending five years running the luxury brand in Japan. Audi sales in the U.S. rose 42 percent to 117,561 last year from 2005, according to researcher Autodata Corp. During his time in Japan, Audi sales more than doubled, VW said when he took over the U.S. post.

“We have exciting and ambitious plans for improving the Infiniti brand including introducing new models in all markets where premium customer demand exists,” Andy Palmer, Nissan executive vice president for product planning, business strategy and marketing communications, said in an e-mailed statement.

De Nysschen’s appointment is effective July 1. He will be based in Hong Kong and hold the title of senior vice president at Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan, the company said in the statement. His move follows a shake-up of VW’s management last week that included replacing three Audi board members.

Audi didn’t announce a replacement for De Nysschen. Audi of America Chief Operating Officer Mark Del Rosso will lead the organization in the interim, Brad Stertz, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail.

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