Cirrus CEO Zean Nielsen
Zean Nielsen moves into the general aviation industry with his new role as Cirrus CEO. (Photo: Cirrus Aircraft)

Former Tesla Exec Takes Helm At Cirrus

Cirrus Aircraft has hired a seasoned sales executive, Zean Nielsen, to succeed Dale Klapmeier as CEO. Nielsen stepped into his new role on June 3, marking a major transition for the Duluth, Minnesota aircraft manufacturer, which has been attached to the Klapmeier name since Dale and his brother Alan cofounded it in 1984. Dale Klapmeier announced at the end of last year his plan to step down as CEO, which he said would free him to focus on strategic opportunities. He will stay on as a senior adviser for Cirrus, which has been one of the most successful aircraft manufacturing startups of the past 35 years.

“Cirrus Aircraft has a remarkably bright future,” Klapmeier said. “We are fortunate to have someone of Zean’s caliber and experience to lead us into the next era of growth. I am looking forward to moving into a senior advisory role and continuing to work with our team on reinventing the future of personal transportation.”

Nielsen’s experience comes primarily from outside the aviation industry, but he brings a deep background of senior leadership at major companies. He most recently was executive vice president of North American sales for James Hardie, a leading industrial building materials company. He also was vice president of global sales operations for Tesla and spent 17 years with electronics maker Bang & Olufsen, where he rose to the role of president of Bang & Olufsen North and South America.