A veteran marketing executive with years of experience at automotive, audio, and building materials manufacturers started work June 3 as the new CEO of Cirrus Aircraft.
Zean Nielsen succeeded Cirrus co-founder Dale Klapmeier as CEO effective June 3, the company reported in a press release. Klapmeier, a National Aviation Hall of Fame inductee, announced in December his intent to transition from CEO to advisor.
Nielsen’s résumé includes senior marketing executive roles at Tesla Motors, where he oversaw worldwide sales, and, prior to that, luxury electronics firm Bang and Olufsen, where he began his career and worked his way up to a senior position. Nielsen worked most recently for James Hardie Industries, an industrial building materials producer based in Australia, where he served as executive vice president of North American sales, according to the Cirrus announcement. An undated document on the James Hardie website indicates Nielsen was born in Denmark and immigrated to the United States in 1999 (the same year Cirrus delivered the first production SR20), and that he was married with three children at the time it was written. Nielsen’s departure from James Hardie was announced in December.
“I am honored and humbled to join this team of experienced general aviation leaders and a world-class workforce as we continue to bring game-changing products and services to market,” Nielsen said in the news release. “Our mission is to deliver an aviation experience that is the pinnacle of innovation, quality and safety to our customers—and that is exactly what we will continue to do for many years to come.”
Cirrus sold 380 piston aircraft in 2018, according to data from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, continuing a long trend of market dominance that the Duluth, Minnesota, firm has enjoyed for many years. Cirrus built the brand around innovation and safety, making airframe parachutes standard equipment from the start, and selling more than 7,000 aircraft to date.
The single-engine Vision Jet was quickly approaching 100 sales by the end of 2018, according to GAMA data—the same year Cirrus was awarded the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy for building and earning FAA certification of the SF50, deemed by the National Aeronautic Association as the nation’s greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics.