New Infiniti global boss Johan De Nysschen, shown here celebrating word the 2010 Audi A3 had been named Green Car of the Year.

Having abruptly handed in his resignation to Audi, the maker’s former U.S. marketing chief will be heading over to Hong Kong, there to take the reins at Nissan’s new global headquarters for the Infiniti division.

The unexpected announcement last week accompanied a series of shake-ups across the Volkswagen upper management ranks – leading some to speculate that De Nysschen was unceremoniously pushed aside despite his enviable track record.  After years of lagging in the second tier among luxury players in the American market, Audi has recently been setting one record after another, with plans to double volumes before the decade is out.

But Infiniti has its own ambitious goals and in his new post De Nysschen will be handling things on a global scale.  Earlier this year Nissan dropped word that it would put further distance between its mainstream operations and the luxury brand by moving Infiniti to Hong Kong.

“We have exciting and ambitious plans for improving the Infiniti brand including introducing new models in all markets where premium customer demand exists,” said Nissan Motor Co. Executive Vice President Andy Palmer. “Johan is a highly successful global luxury automotive executive and his leadership of Infiniti will be a key factor in realizing the potential of the Infiniti brand.”

The South African-born de Nysschen served for 19 years with Audi and claims to have told his family he wanted to work for the VW subsidiary at 13 – after having convinced his father to buy an Audi.  He actually started in the auto industry in his native country with BMW, soon after joining Audi.  He moved on to that company’s Japan subsidiary before coming to the States.

De Nysschen spent a number of years working in Detroit but moved to the Washington, D.C. suburbs, a few years ago, when the entire Volkswagen Group of American operations relocated – with the exception of the Bentley brand – to the nation’s capital.

The decision to move Infiniti headquarters to Hong Kong, Palmer recently told, underscored the Nissan subsidiary’s increasing focus on China, which it sees as crucial to its overall global growth.  Currently the second-largest Infiniti market, the maker has set a goal of tripling Chinese sales, to 500,000, by 2016.


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