Ram Trucks CEO Jumps to Nissan U.S.

When we spoke to him in January at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, Fred Diaz was still in charge of Chrysler’s truck division – but Nissan announced today it named Diaz its new divisional vice president for sales and marketing.

Since 2009, Diaz was the head of the Chrysler Group's Ram division (which was itself created in 2009). Since being spun off from Dodge, Ram has had a good run of things: the brand was up 17 percent in 2012, and won the coveted North American Truck of the Year in 2013 after a redesign that added class-exclusive features like air suspensions, eight-speed automatic transmissions, and active grille shutters to make Ram among the most fuel-efficient pickups on the market.

If you're wondering why Diaz was poached from the Chrysler Group, the Ram 1500 may be a very good example. In 2012, Nissan sold just 21,576 units of the Titan pickup truck, fewer units than the Ram pickup sold in December alone (Ram sold 293,363 pickups total in 2012). The Titan, which looked promising when it was introduced in 2003, has had little in the way of updates or redesigns since then. Coincidentally enough, the "next-generation" Titan was originally slated to be built off of the Dodge Ram platform, although the project was ultimately scrapped. A new Titan, designed internally, is reportedly in the works for a 2014 or 2015 release.

When that new truck does come out, it'll be under the tutelage of Diaz, who now oversees all sales and marketing for the U.S. market, for everything from the mighty GT-R to the humble Versa. He'll also oversee Nissan's commercial vehicle and fleet division, which should heat up as the NV-series van gains sales traction and the NV200 goes on duty as New York City's official taxicab.

Update, 4/15: Diaz’s departure triggered a wave of shuffling within Chrysler’s executive ranks this morning. Chrysler says each appointment is effective today.

First, Reid Bigland, previously president and CEO of the Dodge brand, replaces Diaz as the president and CEO of the Ram Trucks brand. Bigland retains his other assignments, which include serving as Chrysler’s head of U.S. sales, and the CEO of Chrysler Canada.

Diaz had also served as president of Chrysler de Mexico. Bigland will not assume those duties, but Bruno Cattori will. The assignment should be familiar territory for Cattori, as he previously served as Chrysler’s retail/ fleet sales director in Mexico, and acted as president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Mexico from 2002 through 2012.

Bigland’s move to the Ram brand means there’s an opening at Dodge. Chrysler says Timothy Kuniskis, formerly the head of the Fiat brand in North America, is now the president and CEO of the Dodge brand. In turn, Kuniskis’ departure from the Fiat org chart allowed Chrysler to name Jason Stoicevich to lead the Fiat brand. Stoicevich has been with the company ten years, and also retains his prior position as director of Chrysler’s California Business Center.

Source: Nissan, Chrysler

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