News Column

Fred Diaz Leaves Ram Truck Brand for Nissan

April 16, 2013
Fred Diaz
Fred Diaz

Fred Diaz, one of Chrysler's highest ranking executives, is leaving the Auburn Hills automaker to join Nissan as the Japanese automaker vies for a larger share of U.S. industry sales and prepares to launch a redesigned Titan pickup.

Diaz, who has been president and CEO of the Ram truck brand since 2009, could help Nissan with both tasks, said Dave Sullivan, an automotive analyst with AutoPacific.

"This is a pretty big coup for Nissan," Sullivan said. "Nissan gets the guy who knew everything about Ram's trucks and bring him in house."

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has said he wants to increase the Japanese automaker's share U.S. industry sales from 7.9% in 2012 to 10% by 2016. The automaker is counting on a redesigned Titan pickup that is expected as early as 2014 to contribute more than it has.

Through March, Nissan has sold just over 5,000 Titans while Chrysler has sold more than 77,000 full-size and heavy duty Ram pickups.

Diaz, 47, oversaw the launch of the 2013 Ram 1500 last fall as well as the creation of Ram as a standalone brand in 2009 when Dodge established as a separate car and crossover brand.

The 2013 Ram 1500 was named Motor Trend Truck of the Year as well as North American Truck of the year by a panel of 49 independent automotive journalists. Nissan also was hoping to benefit from a partnership with Chrysler to develop its next generation pickup until Fiat ended the partnership in 2009.

Diaz also is the first high-level executive to willingly defect from Chrysler since Fiat became the Auburn Hills automaker's controlling shareholder in 2009. However, Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has a stable management team and has managed to develop the company's existing talent.

Chrysler declined to comment on Diaz's departure on Friday.

He will join Nissan on May 1 in what the company said is a newly created position. However, Al Castignetti, who was responsible for sales and marketing as vice president of the Nissan division, is leaving the Japanese automaker.

"After 15 years with Nissan, Al Castignetti has elected to leave the company to pursue other interests," Nissan said in a statement.

Nissan said Diaz, who joined Chrysler in 1989, will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Nissan division in the United States. That includes oversight of all sales, marketing, fixed operations, parts and service and administration functions. He also will lead the marketing of the Nissan division's light commercial vehicles and fleet sales.

"Fred Diaz is one of the most experienced, results-driven sales and marketing executives in our industry, and we are privileged to welcome him to Nissan," Jose Munoz, Nissan's senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan Americas said in a statement.


(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: Copyright Detroit Free Press (MI) 2013

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