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Aston Martin appoints Nissan exec Andy Palmer as CEO

Bloomberg

Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. has tapped Nissan Motor Co. executive Andy Palmer to run the 101-year-old U.K. sports car maker, ending almost nine months without a leader.

Palmer, 51, will join Aston Martin as chief executive officer following a transition period from his current employer, the Gaydon, England-based company said Tuesday in a statement. His move marks the latest departure of a senior manager from Nissan’s automotive alliance with Renault SA.

The Briton is shifting to a niche manufacturer, which sold 4,200 sports cars in 2013, after 23 years at Nissan, Japan’s second-biggest automaker with 5.2 million global deliveries in the 12 months through March.

Aston Martin, best known for vehicles featured in James Bond films, is investing £500 million ($827 million) by 2017 to develop models to remain viable.

“It’s a bit of a risky move,” said Ashvin Chotai, managing director of research company Intelligence Automotive Asia. “Aston Martin is a fairly small player” that’s facing “a lot of challenges,” and “if he turns it around, the rewards are big.”

Palmer is taking over at Aston Martin after Ulrich Bez, a German national, left the CEO position at the end of 2013 following his 70th birthday. Palmer’s most recent post at Nissan was as chief planning officer, and he oversaw the company’s Infiniti luxury brand.

Nissan said Tuesday that Philippe Klein, an executive vice president at French carmaker Renault, will take the planning post on Sept. 15.

Palmer’s departure “is not going to impact on our business,” Nissan spokesman Chris Keeffe said.

Palmer is at least the fourth senior executive to leave the Renault-Nissan partnership in the past 13 months. Carlos Tavares quit Renault in August 2013 to become CEO of Paris-based rival PSA Peugeot Citroen, and Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen departed in July to run General Motors Co.’s Cadillac brand. Simon Sproule, the alliance’s communications chief, shifted to U.S. electric-auto producer Tesla Motors Inc. in April.

Closely held Aston Martin is controlled by Italian private equity firm Investindustrial, with Kuwaiti companies Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co. as its other main shareholders.

The U.K. carmaker’s strategy is focused on overhauling technology that underlies its hand-made vehicles. Daimler AG, whose Mercedes-Benz unit is the world’s third-biggest manufacturer of luxury vehicles, has an agreement to acquire a 5 percent stake in Aston Martin in exchange for providing the sports car producer with components such as engines and automotive electronics.