I’m not a reporter. I don’t even pretend to be one. What I do is tell stories and sometimes, if I am fortunate, they resonate with people. So when guy name Joe here in Buffalo contacted me and offered me a ride in his 1995 Lotus Esprit I was torn. Naturally, I wanted a ride, who wouldn’t? Still, I had to tell him up-front that I didn’t know if that a ride would generate a story good enough for the illustrious readership here at TTAC. Luckily for me, he invited me over anyhow and I got my ride, but in the end it turns out I was right. A ride, no matter how exhilarating, really wasn’t enough for me to create an entire story. That’s fortunate though, because Joe’s story about his almost lifelong connection to this one specific car is better than anything I could have invented.
In Part 1 of our talk with Infiniti CEO Johan de Nysschen at his new office at the Infiniti world headquarters in Hong Kong, we talked about his new job, about new directions for Infiniti, and for the brand. In the second part, we talk about the new cars Infiniti will bring, where they will be made, what engines will be in them, and what deNysschen thinks about the plan to sell half a million by 2016.
In April at the Beijing auto show, Nissan’s Andy Palmer said he wants to see 500,000 Infiniti sold by 2016, while conceding that this is “an aggressive target.” In the last fiscal year, Infiniti sold 141,000 units worldwide, 105,000 of those in the Americas. In carefully crafted words, de Nysschen explains what he thinks of the 500,000 unit target: Read More >
A few months ago, Nissan’s Infiniti premium division moved out of the office building in Yokohama and out from the shadow of its parent company. Infiniti set up its new world headquarters in Hong Kong. Nissan also snagged Audi’s America-chief Johan de Nysschen as Infiniti’s new boss. Last Friday, after work, we sat down with de Nysschen in his new office on the 35th floor of the Citibank Tower in Hong Kong’s downtown, to talk about his and Infiniti’s plans for the future. This is a two-part interview. The second part will appear tomorrow.
De Nysschen’s office is spacious, but subdued in comparison to the workplaces of other leaders of industry. No armed guards, no sometimes more dangerous personal assistants bar the entry. He sits at a working man’s desk: Three computers of various sizes, a printer. A glass door provides limited privacy from otherwise open floor offices with space for maybe 100 people when Infiniti’s World Headquarters are fully staffed. So how does the new CEO like the new office in the new city? Read More >
Garth Stein is a better driver than you. Really. In 2003, he won the SCCA Northwest points championship in his Spec Miata before a crash while driving in the rain, no less, ended those Senna dreams. The novel that sprang from those experiences is a lot like his little Miata: a bit cutesy on the outside but equipped with such a perfect balance of heart and engineering that you can’t help but go back for more. Maybe that’s why it’s been on the New York Times best-seller list for over 120 weeks and Patrick Dempsey, more race car driver than actor now, has picked it up for the big screen.
I’ve often wondered if there is a relationship between the decline of the automobile’s cultural relevance, and the decline of the larger-than-life auto executive. Clearly the car’s waning ability to excite, inspire and shape material culture is a complex phenomenon with no single cause, but it’s got to have some kind of connection to the people making the cars. After all, the original Mustangs, Corvettes, and Model Ts emerged from firms led by such oversized presences as Lee Iacocca, Bill Mitchell and the original car-guy-as-folk-hero, Henry Ford. Today there’s no shortage of brilliant, engaging, passionate people working in the car industry, and yet few contemporary executives have made the kind of cultural impact that their predecessors once did. This, in a nutshell, is why Bob Lutz fascinates me: though he never made as wide of a mark on popular culture as an Iacocca or DeLorean, he’s one of the last remaining links to an era in the car industry that now seems impossibly out of reach.
But because he is not a man of the times, it’s incredibly easy to misunderstand the guy. In fact, having spent several hours chatting with him on and off the record, I’d argue that the best anyone can hope for is to simply not misunderstand him. In that spirit, I’ve assembled ten impressions of the man that I found not to be true in our conversation. But be warned: just because these “myths” aren’t completely true doesn’t mean they’re completely untrue either…