Mazda Motor Europe said on Monday Benno Gaessler had been appointed (pause for deep breath) "general manager North America and Europe support and business management department (NEMD)" at corporate headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan.

"In his new position, Gaessler will play an essential role in business innovation at Mazda’s European and North American organisations and he will handle regional and senior management reviews, marketing plans and long term strategy," a statement said.

After nine years at Opel, Gaessler in 2005 joined Mazda's European R&D centre in Oberursel, Germany, as product planning manager and then became advanced product strategy manager.

More so than other Japanese automakers, Mazda has a tradition of employing westerners in its top ranks. Other high fliers there have included Mark Fields, now head of Ford's Americas unit.