NISSAN Australia’s newly appointed managing director, Canadian Stephen Lester, will bring some 13 years’ experience with BMW and another three years with Infiniti to his new role which places him in charge of both the Nissan and Infiniti brands in Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Lester has been at the helm of Infiniti Canada since April 2015, responsible for all aspects of the Infiniti organisation in Canada including sales, aftersales and marketing – and steering the luxury brand to record sales of 12,094 units last year, its fifth consecutive annual sales growth and an increase of 6.8 per cent over 2015.
This is a vastly bigger market than in Australia, where Infiniti was launched in 2012 and has slowly built up sales – to just over 800 last year – on the back of new models and an expanding retail network currently comprising nine dealerships and two separate service centres.
To the end of July this year, Infiniti’s sales in Australia were up a further 18.5 per cent – to 468 units – compared to the same period in 2016, while Nissan, which will be Mr Lester’s prime focus, was down 12.3 per cent with 34,274 sales so far in 2017.
Reporting to Nissan’s Asia and Oceania region head of sales and marketing, Vincent Wijnen, Mr Lester is charged with arresting Nissan’s sales decline and overseeing newly formulated “plans for the brand’s next direction”.
Prior to taking the reins of Infiniti Canada, Mr Lester was national general manager with responsibility for Infiniti’s retail operations across Canada, which at the time had 38 dealers. The role covered sales and service operations, retailer performance and generating business development.
He moved to Infiniti in 2014 from BMW Group Canada, where he had risen through the ranks after joining as an event co-ordinator in December 2001.
He was promoted to senior event specialist in 2004 before relocating in 2006 to BMW AG headquarters in Munich, Germany, where for two years he was responsible for international exhibitions and event consulting in the central marketing and brand management department.
He returned to Ontario in 2008 as BMW Group Canada’s event marketing manager, and three years later was promoted to retailer marketing manager. In mid-2012, he rose to manager of the company’s central region, representing its brands to the dealer body for just over two years before making the move to Infiniti.
Mr Lester can speak German and holds a sports management degree from Brock University in Ontario. He is married with three children.
By Terry Martin