Nissan fine-tunes senior exec roles in North America

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Nissan North America is repositioning some senior leaders as the automaker works on a turnaround of the U.S. business.

Two top executives will swap roles as part of the reorganization, Nissan told dealers Thursday in an email obtained by Automotive News. Nissan confirmed the moves, which take effect Nov. 1.

Judy Wheeler, 58, will oversee U.S. sales and be tasked with shoring up the brand’s retail operations. In the first nine months, Nissan Division’s U.S. sales tumbled 38 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

In her new role as division vice president of sales and regional operations in the U.S., Wheeler will run the field sales organization and lead sales operations, distribution, fleet and certified pre-owned sales.

For Wheeler, the new role is familiar. She was division vice president for U.S. sales before taking her present role as division vice president of Dealer Network Development & Customer Quality in 2018.

David Kershaw, 55, who had been promoted to oversee Nissan’s U.S. sales last year, will take over Wheeler’s current job.

In his new role, Kershaw will manage dealer network development for the Nissan and Infiniti brands for the U.S. and Canada. Kershaw previously ran sales and marketing for the Southeast region.

Nissan National Dealer Advisory Board Chairman Scott Smith described the changes “as the right moves at the right time.”

“Judy knows every inch of the sales space,” Smith said. “She knows how to offer real retail solutions.”

The role swap comes as Nissan looks to improve dealer relations. The automaker’s controversial sales incentive program triggered unrest last year.

Dealers have complained Nissan sets unrealistic sales targets that foster a culture of discounting, dented resale values and damaged brand reputation and sink dealer profitability.

Nissan, in a statement, said: “Dave and Judy both are veteran execs with experience in both sales and dealer network development who have expanded their skill sets in their previous positions— making great progress in developing our sales plan and improving dealer relations.”

At the same time, Allyson Witherspoon, 43, will be elevated to vice president and chief marketing officer for the U.S.

Witherspoon took her current role as vice president, marketing communications and media for Nissan North America last year. Before that, she was Nissan general manager of global brand engagement at the automaker’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan.

Witherspoon’s promotion to CMO occurs as Nissan executes a product offensive that will take the model lineup from one of the industry’s oldest to its newest. Nissan will bring six new or redesigned vehicles to dealerships by the end of 2021.

Dan Mohnke, 53, is appointed vice president, eCommerce where he will lead online commerce efforts. He currently is Nissan North America vice president, Customer Journey & Data Innovation.

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