Nissan Motor Co. said it is hiring the senior auto reviewer for Consumer Reports magazine to be the carmaker’s new executive adviser on vehicle quality.
David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, will work at Nissan’s vehicle testing center in Stanfield, Arizona, the company said Wednesday in a statement.
Champion, who worked as a Nissan engineer from 1994 to 1997, will report to Steve Monk, Nissan’s director of vehicle evaluation and testing, the Yokohama-based company said.
“The auto industry likes to downplay Consumer Reports’ influence, but consumers have a different view,” said Alan Baum, of Baum & Associates, which analyzes the auto industry. “Nissan has positioned itself as a design leader among the Japanese automakers, but over time design alone becomes less groundbreaking. Others catch up. You have to focus on mundane issues like quality.”
The hiring of Consumer Reports’ Champion, who has recommended Nissan’s Altima sedan as the magazine’s top pick among midsize sedans, is part of a push by the second-biggest Japanese carmaker to be viewed as a leader in quality as competition with Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. intensifies.
“His experience in developing robust testing methods will help Nissan keep pace with the increasing complexity of our products and stay focused on continually improving our customer satisfaction ratings,” said Carla Bailo, Nissan’s senior vice president for North American research and development.
Champion’s first day at Nissan is Sept. 10, spokeswoman Katherine Zachary said.
Consumer Reports, published by the nonprofit Consumers Union, is among the most influential vehicle guides in the United States. Carmakers seek favorable evaluations from the publication as its reviews are considered the most objective because of policies of accepting no advertising and buying every vehicle it tests.
Positive reviews for Toyota and Honda vehicles in the 1980s helped them develop a reputation for vehicle quality. Reviews led by Champion singled out products including Honda’s 2012 Civic sedan last year and Toyota’s new Prius c subcompact in May as vehicles buyers should avoid.
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