Nissan names VW exec Willcox as new Europe head

Willcox returns to Nissan after a short stint at VW.
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TOKYO – Nissan has appointed new regional bosses for Europe and the Africa-Middle East-India regions, bringing back Paul Willcox from Volkswagen Group for Europe and recruiting Takashi Hata from transmission maker Jatco Ltd. to run the emerging market portfolio.

The appointments fill vacancies from a Nov. 1 management shuffle rolled out by Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn to tackle what he called “soft” performance.

Willcox takes the reins in Europe after serving as Nissan’s head of sales and marketing for the region until September when he quit the automaker to head Volkswagen Group operations in the UK. He was named one of 2013 Automotive News Europe Eurostars for his work at Nissan.

He takes over for Trevor Mann, who was promoted Nov. 1 from boss of Europe to Nissan’s global chief performance officer with oversight of all regional businesses. Willcox joined Nissan in 1992 from Peugeot's UK operations.

Hata joins Nissan on Feb. 1 from Jatco, the Nissan-affiliated maker of automatic and continuously variable transmissions. Ghosn handpicked Hata to be president of Jatco in 2011 as part of a push to internationalize the Japanese supplier. Fluent in English, Hata received his MBA from Northwestern University and later worked for General Electric Co.

Last year, Hata was named an Automotive News All-Star for Jatco’s success in developing more efficient CVTs. But this year, his company was called out by Ghosn for quality problems that have dented the automaker’s profits in North America.

Separately, Jatco said Teruaki Nakatsuka will join Jatco on Feb. 1 as an adviser and become CEO in June, following approval at a shareholders meeting. Nakatsuka joins Nissan from General Electric Aviation, where he is general manager for North Asia.

In other moves, Nissan appointed Jun Seki as president of Dongfeng Motor Co., Nissan's joint venture in China with Dong Feng Group, effective Jan. 1. He was also promoted to senior vice president and chairman of Nissan's China region, effective the same day.

All three executives will report to Mann, in his new role as head of regional operations.

Ghosn had already named regional heads for North America, Latin America and the Japan -Southeast Asia markets during the November reorganization.

“With these appointments, we have the full regional leadership team in place,” Ghosn said in a Dec. 20 press release. “All of our six regional teams are focused on delivering our performance objectives for the remainder of fiscal year 2013 and for the future."

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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