Infiniti President Christian Meunier, in a major executive catch by Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley, has been recruited to become global president of Jeep, FCA said Tuesday.
Shortly before the announcement, Infiniti said Meunier had left his job, effective immediately, "for personal reasons."
Meunier, 51, a former executive with Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Land Rover in North America and Europe, fills a critical post at one of the hottest auto brands that has been empty in recent months.
"I am delighted to add Christian to the leadership team we're building to drive FCA forward,” Manley said in a statement. “He brings additional world-class strength and experience to an already-proven bench, and I look forward to the continuation of the Jeep brand's growth under his stewardship."
Meunier, a gregarious Frenchman with a reputation for speaking bluntly, was named global head of Nissan Motor Co.’s premium brand in January, but had resisted moving to Infiniti's corporate headquarters in Hong Kong. Instead, he has been living in Nashville and commuting to Hong Kong several times a month.
"I'm excited to join the team at FCA,” Meunier said in a statement from FCA. “The company is one I've admired from afar; and, Jeep is a brand that anyone would be privileged to be a part of."
His departure from Infiniti leaves an unclear succession there.
Nissan Motor’s chief quality officer, Christian Vandenhende, will take over as Infiniti chief until a replacement is named.
Vandenhende wears multiple hats. In addition to being responsible for quality and customer satisfaction at Nissan, he oversees the management committees for North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
Mike Colleran, Infiniti global division vice president, will continue in his recently appointed role overseeing all sales regions, in addition to acting as deputy chairman, reporting to Vandenhende.
The change comes as Infiniti faces a sales slide in the U.S., its biggest market. The brand’s global sales fell 5.2 per cent last year to 233,445. U.S. sales, meanwhile, slid 2.7 per cent last year to 149,280 vehicles.
Infiniti is also behind in the electrification race. Infiniti will get its first EV in 2021, and expects electrified models to account for half of its global sales by 2025.
Its competitors have a head start there. BMW anticipates having 25 electrified vehicles in its lineup by 2025, with a dozen of those being full electric. Mercedes, meanwhile, expects to electrify its model portfolio by 2022.
Meunier previously was Infiniti’s vice president of global marketing and sales operations. Before that, he led Nissan operations in the U.S. and Canada.