September 2, 2014 at 11:12 am

Nissan exec tapped as Aston Martin CEO

Washington —The Nissan executive who oversaw the company’s electric vehicle program has been tapped to oversee British luxury automaker Aston Martin.

Andy Palmer, 51, who was chief planning officer at Nissan, was named CEO of Aston Martin Lagonda “to lead the company in its next phase of technology and product creation,” the company said.

Palmer is a British-born chartered engineer, chartered manager and auto executive with 35 years of automotive industry experience. Palmer was chief planning officer, executive vice president and member of the executive committee of Nissan Motor Company reporting directly to the president and CEO. His responsibilities included corporate and product planning, program management, electric vehicles, global marketing communications, global sales and information technology. Palmer also served as chairman of Infiniti.

The British car company was sold by Ford Motor Co. in 2007 for $925 million to a consortium of investors, including two Kuwaiti companies. The new owners have invested heavily in the brand and Aston Martin has new design and engineering studios. Sales were up about 11 percent worldwide in 2013 to 4,200. German automaker Daimler AG holds a 5 percent stake in the car company as part of a technology-sharing agreement. The automaker reportedly has several new models in the works including an SUV. Earlier this year, several analysts rated Aston Martin bonds a “sell” because of concerns about product development costs.

Nearly all other luxury brands — including Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini — have been acquired by global automakers with big scale like BMW AG, Volkswagen AG, Daimler and Tata Motors.

Palmer started his professional career in 1979 at age 16, as an apprentice at Automotive Products Limited. In 1986, he joined Austin Rover to eventually become transmissions chief engineer of Rover Group. Palmer joined Nissan in 1991 and was based in Japan for the past 13 years.

“We’re delighted that Andy will join us as our new CEO at this important time at Aston Martin. Andy’s wealth of experience on the global automotive stage in marketing and sales, engineering and technology, and luxury and brand management will be instrumental in taking Aston Martin forward through its most significant and ambitious period of investment to date,” Aston Martin’s board said.

At Nissan, Palmer has also been a key executive on the company’s autonomous vehicle program. In an interview last year, he said Nissan has been driving the cars for six weeks on a track that simulates real-world driving: “I believe that we are ahead. Even if we are not, our intention is basically from 2020 — within two model iterations — we’ll have autonomous technology on every car in our portfolio,” Palmer said. “If your 85-year-old mother has no other form of transport, it’s kind of nice that she has mobility.”

In February, Aston Martin recalled 17,590 sports cars globally because of a problem with the accelerator pedal molding. The recall affects most of the vehicles it sold in the United States since 2007. Last year, Aston Martin issued a similar recall and had replaced throttle pedal assemblies on about 1,000 vehicles. Those will need to be again replaced because of the counterfeit material produced in China.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com