Ponz PANDIKUTHIRA - Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe
Who is Ponz?
Ponz Pandikuthira was promoted to Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe on 1st May, 2016. Prior to this role he was Director, responsible for Nissan's Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) business unit in Europe and Russia.
The product planning function is responsible for understanding and responding to customer trends in the market to ensure that Nissan’s product line up continues to be robust and exciting. As pioneers of the ever-expanding crossover segment, Nissan have proved their excellence in research and data to understand why certain vehicles are popular and what drivers will want in the future. With connectivity moving faster than anything the industry has seen before, Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility programme will be even more key in future vehicles; where the product planning function plays a very key role.
Ponz has had a real passion for cars ever since reading Lee Iacocca's autobiography when he was 15. He began his career in the industry as an engineer for Chrysler in Detroit in 1996, working on Jeep and Truck manufacturing, before moving on to passenger car engineering, product planning and then marketing.
In 2008 he moved to Europe to head product management for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles based out of the Daimler offices in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2009, he was recruited by Kia Europe, based in Frankfurt, to lead its Product Management function during its expansion in Europe.
In April 2012, Ponz joined Nissan, attracted by the diverse management team and global career development opportunities. He was appointed General Manager and Chief Marketing Manager for Crossovers, C-segment and Sports cars, managing a portfolio of six vehicles, the Nissan Qashqai, X-Trail, Pulsar, Murano, GT-R and 370Z. In July 2014, after the successful launches of Qashqai and X-Trail, he was appointed Director of the LCV business unit and member of the Nissan Europe Management Committee.
Achievements at Nissan
Ponz says that successfully launching the new Nissan Qashqai in 2013-2014 was an incredible experience and proud achievement. He said: "It is the single most important vehicle for Nissan in Europe in terms of brand, share and profit. The pressure to ensure that the new vehicle lived up to the expectations of the hugely successful outgoing model was immense." He added: "By every metric, the launch of the new Nissan Qashqai was a resounding success. Winning the Global Nissan President Award for this launch was the ultimate endorsement of this achievement."
"Driving a GT-R for the first time after joining Nissan was an amazing experience," Ponz said. "Having driven several high performance vehicles with 500-600HP, my expectations of the GT-R were moderate. However, I was shocked by how terrifyingly good it was, especially at high speeds and on race tracks." Ponz once drove a GT-R for 1,300 km in a single day just for fun and has since driven the GT-R at Le Mans, on the Nurburgring Nordschelife, and at Spa Francorchamps.
Why is Nissan Different
Ponz said: "Nissan is Japanese in origin but run by a very international management team with a global mindset. Add to that the Alliance with Renault, Avtovaz and the strategic partnership with Daimler, and the result is a truly global company with a very significant positive impact on the global economy." He added: "From the best-selling electric car in the world, to the segment-defining Qashqai, to a high-performance yet affordable supercar, Nissan has demonstrated product excellence, diversity and innovation."
The reduction of emissions, alternative ownership structures for vehicles, and alternative mobility solutions will dominate the next decade of development within the industry, Ponz believes. He says that Nissan is well positioned to play a leading role in this rapidly changing environment. "We will need to move away from a mind-set that people just need more traditional vehicles every year to meet their mobility and transportation needs," he said.
Education and Awards
Ponz is married, loves amateur motorsports in the form of track days and karting. He also enjoys long road-trips, especially across the high speed sections of the German Autobahn and the winding roads across the Alps. He loves to snowboard and looks forward to the winter with regular trips to the spectacular Alpine resorts that are close to his home in Switzerland. He enjoys travelling off the beaten path and getting to know people from different cultures.
Ponz drives a Nissan 370Z Roadster. His first car was a second-hand Toyota Supra Turbo. Before that a Yamaha 750 motorcycle was his ride of choice.