Fred Diaz will take the reins at one of the smallest mass-market brands in America.
The man responsible for launching the second-generation Nissan Titan in North America has been appointed what's likely to be one of the toughest top C-suite roles in the industry. Beginning April 1, Fred Diaz, the former Ram brand boss who defected from Chrysler to Nissan in 2013 to be its top sales boss, will assume both president and CEO roles at Mitsubishi Motors North America. He replaces Ryujiro Kobashi, who returns to Japan for another role with the automaker.
Mitsubishi will be the third automaker to retain Diaz's services in five years and he will be Mitsubishi's first non-Japanese CEO since Rich Gilligan retired in 2006. Mitsubishi was ripe for take over after it became embroiled in a fuel-ecomony scandal that left it and its partners exposed to regulatory fines and legal action in Japan. One of those partners, Renault-Nissan, decided it would take control of the smaller automaker as a way to best shield itself from scandal exposure and to also grow its business long-term through another brand. Shortly after the takeover, Nissan reassigned a number of senior executives to Mitsubishi.
Diaz made the move later in 2017 and was appointed "general manager in charge of performance optimization for the global marketing and sales division of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.," Automotive News reported at the time of Diaz's brand switch. When Diaz was appointed to that role, Mitsubishi didn't offer any details on whether he would be directly involved in the automaker's U.S. operations. It's still unclear how Nissan and Mitsubishi will work together in North America, if at all. Mitsubishi grew at a good pace in the United States last year, but a lack of product meant its sales volume still remained quite low compared to other mainstream automakers.
This year, Mitsubishi introduced the Eclipse Cross CUV along with its "Drive for Growth" plan, which has the automaker aiming for 30% sales growth this year in the United States. In announcing Diaz's most recent appointment, Mitsubishi's global Chief Operating Officer and fellow Nissan-to-Mitsubishi transplant Trevor Mann stated, "The United States is a strategic market for Mitsubishi Motors in our Drive for Growth plan. With his in-depth background and experience in North America, Fred has a strong ability to proactively engage with Mitsubishi Motors' dealers and customers as we aim to expand our dealership network, enhance our brand, and drive sales growth."