Nissan Aus boss departs, Supercars future in question

Tom Howard

Thursday 31st August, 2017 - 8:38am

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Richard Emery

Nissan Australia boss Richard Emery has left the Japanese marque amid uncertainty regarding the manufacturer’s Supercars plans beyond 2018.

Emery, who took up the CEO role at Nissan Australia in 2014, has been instrumental in developing the brand’s national motorsport programs.

The former Mercedes Australia and New Zealand sales manager left Nissan on Wednesday and will be replaced by Stephen Lester, who has previously held the managing director position at Infiniti in Canada.

Nissan announced a new two-year commitment to Supercars this time last year, ensuring the program, based around the Altima, continues until at least the end of 2018.

Emery played a key part in securing the extension which followed a series of talks between Nissan Australia and the company’s headquarters in Japan.

The manufacturer is currently assessing its global motorsport programs for 2019, including Supercars.

Should the marque continue the program, it is likely to opt for a change of body shape with the Altima no longer sold in Australia.

The GT-R has long been mooted among possible alternatives following the introduction of Gen2 regulations.

Emery confirmed as recently as last month that talks regarding its Supercars future were at a critical stage with discussions centering around engines, given the championship’s move to allow four and six cylinder engine variants.

He doesn’t expect his departure to have an immediate effect on the current status of the brand’s Supercars programs and is of the view that a continuation is valuable for Nissan in Australia.

However, he admits ultimately decisions will have to be made by his successor.

“All I would say is that I think motorsport still holds a key platform in Australia that is really my view, but what form that takes depends on how it mixes with the global program,” Emery told Speedcafe.com.

“The motorsport program remains in good health in terms of its returns for the Nissan business, having said that it does get down to what the global program will be and that doesn’t change.

“My departure shouldn’t make any significant shift in the conversation and the status of the program as it is today and what it means to the business.

“I was of the view that it is something Nissan should seriously consider continuing.

“Whether the new incumbent has a different view, or whether that changes the overall status of the programs is to be determined when the new person gets their feet under the desk.”

During his time at Nissan, Emery has also played a significant role in Nissan’s GT3 program in Australia, which has seen factory GT-R GT3s tackle the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

Nissan emerged victorious in 2015 becoming regular challengers ever since, with this year’s event witnessing an expansion to a two-car factory effort.

Nissan Australia purchased its own GT-R GT3 following the Bathurst success. The car has been dormant since February’s Mount Panorama endurance.

Emery has also overseen the development of Nissan’s renowned Playstation GT Academy in Australia, which has seen gamer Matt Simmons from Queensland earn a factory GT3 contract.

He feels the motorsport programs in Australia have endured highs and lows but have proved an asset to the brand as a whole.

“On track success has not always been where we wanted to be and I think both Nissan and the Kellys have been frustrated by the on track performances (in Supercars). However, that is not the total measure of the success of the program,” Emery added.

“There have been other elements like the GT Academy with Matt Simmons or the Bathurst 12 Hour.

“As a whole the motorsport program has added to our positive marketing mixture and that has been able to be sustained through the period I was there because it had links to the global program.”

Nissan Motorsport has issued a statement to Speedcafe.com acknowledging Emery’s work since 2014.

“We are very grateful to Richard for his support of Nissan Motorsport and contribution as a while to Supercars,” read the statement.

“We welcome Stephen Lester and we look forward to working closely with him on the racing program in the future.”