Consumer Reports is the 800-pound-gorilla of automotive testing: Exalted by the mainstream, feared by automakers, and often reviled by enthusiasts. While that's unlikely to change after Champion's departure – after all, the institute's reputation goes largely unchallenged due to a dearth of legitimate competition – we do wonder how Nissan will respond to having a former outsider in its midst. At least we imagine Champion is being cast in the role of provocateur when he heads to Nissan's Arizona Testing Center.
While Nissan is clearly doing a pretty good job with product right now – given both its growing sales and our esteem for a number of its recent models, from GT-R to the Juke and Altima – insularity and myopia always seem to be lurking in the next product development cycle. These terrible twin traits have historically proven to afflict even the most esteemed automakers, often when they seem most impervious. A plum gig for Champion this may be, but he will no doubt have his work cut out for him.
Scroll down to read the full press release from Nissan, as well as a statement from Consumer Reports.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Nissan, which currently is launching five new vehicles in 15 months, today announced the hiring of former Consumer Reports Auto Test Center Senior Director, David Champion, for the newly created position of executive adviser, competitive assessment and quality.
Champion will report to Steve Monk, director, vehicle evaluation and testing and chief marketability engineer for Nissan Technical Center North America, and he will be based at its Arizona Testing Center. His work also will align closely with customer satisfaction efforts overseen by Carla Bailo, senior vice president, research and development. Champion's hiring marks his return to Nissan, where he served as a quality assurance engineer from 1994 to 1997, working to identify and correct customer dissatisfiers.
"David Champion's unique industry background will help ensure that the customer's voice is evident in every product we engineer," said Bailo. "His experience in developing robust testing methods will help Nissan keep pace with the increasing complexity of our products and stay focused on continually improving our customer satisfaction ratings."
Champion will play a key role in Nissan's focus on quality improvement for which the company has been increasingly recognized. Nissan and Infiniti were among the most improved brands in J.D. Power and Associates' 2012 Initial Quality Study that ranks new-vehicle quality. In the 2012 Customer Satisfaction Index Study, which surveys customers' satisfaction with dealer service departments, Nissan scored the largest improvement in the industry. In 2011, Nissan also made the largest improvement for any volume automaker in the history of the J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index Study that asks consumers for their impression of the dealership where they just purchased a vehicle.
Prior to his roles at Consumer Reports and Nissan, Champion was a principal engineer at Land Rover of North America, where he established remote test facilities throughout the United States and Canada. Champion earned dual bachelor's degrees at University of Aston, Birmingham, England, in mechanical engineering and metal and material science.
Champion joins Nissan on Sept. 10.
Statement from Consumer Reports:
"We wish David Champion all the best as he moves on to pursue a new opportunity and we're grateful for his contribution to the organization. He has helped transform Consumer Reports' Auto Testing operations during his 15 years here and become an influential voice in the autos space. We are especially proud of his tireless work to promote auto safety and helping make the nation's roads safer," said Liam McCormack, Vice President, Technical Director, for Consumer Reports.
Two of the senior engineers from CR's Auto Test program, Jennifer Stockburger and Jake Fisher, have been promoted from Program Manager to Director and are assuming David's responsibilities.
Stockburger will be responsible for the day-to-day running of CR's test track and for the child car seat and tire testing programs. Fisher will oversee CR's extensive vehicle testing operations at the Auto Test Center, the largest independent consumer automobile testing center in the world.