* Nissan's Andy Palmer to be Aston Martin CEO
* To be replaced at Nissan by Renault's Philippe Klein
* Loss-making Aston Martin needs new investments
(Adds analyst comment, details, background)
By Laurence Frost, Yoko Kubota and Edward Taylor
PARIS/TOKYO/FRANKFURT Sept 2 Aston Martin has
hired a senior Nissan executive to be its new boss,
marking both a coup for the embattled British sportscar maker
and a worsening exodus at Carlos Ghosn's Renault-Nissan
Product and planning chief Andy Palmer, Ghosn's
second-ranked lieutenant at Nissan, has resigned to take over as
Aston Martin chief executive "after he completes a transition
period from his current employer", the 101-year-old carmaker
said on Tuesday, confirming an earlier Reuters report.
Privately held Aston Martin, the car brand of choice for
fictitious spy James Bond, has been leaderless for nine months
as it struggles to stay competitive with larger rivals and fund
investments in new vehicle and engine technologies.
Palmer's background and experience - including leadership of
Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand - will be "instrumental in taking
Aston Martin forward", the loss-making carmaker said.
The move adds to a recent series of high-level
Renault-Nissan departures that began last year with Carlos
Tavares, Ghosn's chief operating officer at Renault.
Like British-born Palmer, Tavares was seen as a potential
Ghosn successor and went on to take the helm at PSA Peugeot
Citroen earlier this year - after reportedly being
approached for the Aston Martin CEO vacancy.
Takaki Nakanishi, who heads his own Tokyo-based research
firm, said Ghosn's 15-year tenure as Nissan boss had led to "a
kind of deadlock" in the career paths of senior executives.
"Against that backdrop, there tends to be more moves as
people look for change," Nakanishi said. "For Nissan, Andy's
departure is a blow and the question is what will happen to the
continuity of Nissan management."
Nissan's Infiniti division has also lost its CEO Johan de
Nysschen this year, along with Europe chief Fintan Knight, an
Audi and Lamborghini veteran recruited from Volkswagen Group
Palmer, who joined Nissan in 1991, is seen by peers as a key
contributor to the Japanese carmaker's success and increasingly
global outlook under 43.4 percent Renault ownership. He also
spearheaded alliance cooperation with Daimler.
Palmer, 51, will be replaced at Nissan by his Renault
counterpart Philippe Klein, while Renault Russia chief Bruno
Ancelin will fill Klein's shoes, the carmakers said on Tuesday.
Klein, six years Palmer's senior, has experience in engine
development, quality and product planning as well as two
previous stints at Nissan under his belt.
The arrival of a new CEO may signal a turning point for
Aston Martin as it purchases Mercedes engines from Daimler and
seeks to deepen its own relationship with the German premium
carmaker, a 4 percent shareholder.
Daimler, which lacks a British luxury brand to counter VW's
Bentley and BMW's Rolls-Royce, has previously voiced
interest in greater involvement with Aston Martin.
Before he retired at the end of 2013, former Aston Martin
boss Ulrich Bez had discussed building a Lagonda SUV based on
the Mercedes-Benz GL, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche confirmed in
January. "We were open to that idea," Zetsche said.
Aston Martin's current lineup of four models, including the
ageing DB9 and Vantage, risks falling foul of tightening
emissions and safety regulation if the company does not step up
investment in new architectures and powertrains.
In May last year, the carmaker sold a 37.5 percent stake to
Italian fund Investindustrial in a $241 million deal with its
controlling shareholders, Kuwait's Investment Dar and Adeem
Two months later it announced a deal to develop a new
generation of V8 engines with AMG, the Mercedes high-performance
division, as well as sharing some electronics.
Further indications of potential collaboration could come as
soon as next week, when AMG unveils a new GT coupé, part of
efforts to challenge VW's Porsche by making the performance
offering more distinct from core Mercedes models.
(Editing by Mark Potter)