YOKOHAMA, Japan - Nissan is the largest automaker in Mexico with a market share of 25.5%, and it's an increasingly important manufacturer, both for the domestic market and export.
Visiting the Global Media Center on a recent Japan visit was Jose Luis Valls, President and Managing Director of Nissan Mexicana, and Jose Roman, Managing Director of Nissan in Latin America and in the Caribbean.
Visiting the Global Media Center on a recent Japan visit was (from left) Jose Roman, Managing Director of Nissan in Latin America and in the Caribbean, and Jose Luis Valls, President and Managing Director of Nissan Mexicana. They spoke with the Global Media Center's Roland Buerk.
Q: What is the secret of Nissan in Mexico? Why is Nissan quite so popular there?
Jose Luis Valls: I would say there are many things, a long story since we first landed there. The first manufacturing site outside Japan was in Cuernavaca in Mexico. We have a very strong team. They are very committed and very passionate about being leaders in the market. We can summarize one thing, a No. 1 Mindset. We work hard every day. We work hard to be the best.
When we are not the best, we plan. We have a process, discipline and target what we need to do to be the best in every single area of the business. It could be sales, it could be manufacturing, it could be the export process. The whole team is very focused on that mindset. So, Numero Uno is what we say there. It is very important for the team.
Q: Jose Roman, you run Latin America and the Caribbean. What is the strategy there - a hugely diverse region with many countries?
Jose Roman: We have a huge region. We have 37 countries. We have diversity. We have several languages, and actually we have six or seven really big markets in the region. But also we have to attend and take care of the small markets. We have to be very focused and think about the customer, about the different needs the dealers have in each country.
Obviously, the secret of the future is to have customer focus. We are working a lot on the after-sales part of the business. The secret is simple: To see what the customer wants.
Q: Returning to Mexico, Nissan is investing heavily in plants in Mexico. How big is it going to get, and how important is the auto industry for Mexico generally?
Jose Luis Valls: Mexico is turning into a hub of manufacturing and exports. We currently export to over 100 countries and will produce more than 1 million units in Mexico soon. So that's a big, big plan. We are currently under construction with Aguascalientes 2. It will take our production over 1 million units.
Currently, at the manufacturing facilities over 80% of the structure is already built. Under the leadership of our Vice President of Manufacturing, Armando Avila, they are moving really fast. They will be starting production by the end of November. That will increase the whole capacity to supply Mexico and the rest of the region.
So, this is a very important milestone for Nissan Mexicana. We are No.1 in sales, No. 1 in production, No. 1 in exports, and also No. 1 in investment.
Q: Jose Roman, in Latin America and the Caribbean, who is your No. 1 competitor?
Jose Roman: We have two big competitors. First of all, the Koreans, I think they are doing a good job. And also GM, which has a lot of legacy in the region. They have been really good in focusing on the customer. So, we have a tough market there, but the future is bright for us because we have a nice plan. We're going to be really aggressive for the next five years.
Q: Jose Luis Valls, GM is a competitor, but there is also collaboration. What's going on with the NV200?
Jose Luis Valls: Certainly, it is our main competitor in Mexico as well. They are second in the market. But all these collaboration agreements around the world are more common now, and we will soon be providing for them the NV200 built in Civac in Cuernavaca for the US market. It will not be commercialized in Mexico, but it will be in the US. It is interesting how all these collaboration agreements become more common now, and this is certainly one of those opportunities to leverage our muscle of production and quality we have in Mexico.
Q: Why does Nissan want to sell its commercial vehicles badged as GM?
Jose Luis Valls: Actually, we want to make the most of our capacity, if it is a potential business that will generate that opportunity. The way this is structured, the engine and transmission doesn't allow us to currently commercialize that vehicle in the Mexican market or the Latin American market. We need manual transmissions, so that will be an opportunity for the US currently. And, if we can take advantage and leverage for our manufacturing muscle and this is good business over there, I guess Nissan has been very successful in all these collaboration agreements around the world, and this is certainly one of those.
Q: Jose Roman, we saw you in Jamaica recently presenting Usain Bolt his gold GT-R. What was the event like?
Jose Roman: It was an amazing event, really simple actually, because we wanted to deliver the best car in the world to the best athlete in the world. So, we delivered the car and Usain Bolt was shocked with the product. He was hugging the GT-R. He was really happy, and we took advantage of the opportunity to see the foundation he has there. He's helping a lot of children there.
It was a really simple and nice, and I would say frugal event, but with a lot of feeling for the brand.
Q: Jose Luis Valls, let's talk about the Tsuru, an iconic car, based on a Sentra but seen as the quintessential Mexican car. How do you go about renewing an iconic car like that?
Jose Luis Valls: The Tsuru is the foundation, the big champion for so many years. In more than 50 years of history in Mexico, the Tsuru has a strong role, successful history. It is a symbol of reliability and quality for any car in Mexico, because most of the public transportation taxis in Mexico are Tsuru.
Although now it is not our No. 1 seller - we have the Versa, NV300, Sentra, March - that are taking that position, along with the Tiida, it is still among the Top 5 best sellers in Mexico. Five out of the ten top sellers in Mexico are Nissans. Actually, last month we had six out of the top ten sellers in Mexico. Tsuru has always been there.
We used to sell a lot of Tsuru, a big portion of our sales were Tsuru. Now it is becoming smaller, but it still is a big champion for public transportation. Every time we reduce production, we have a lot of complaints from the market because they want more Tsuru, so the Tsuru is there to stay.
As long as the market is requesting Tsuru, we will be more than happy to keep supplying more.
Q: Is that a commitment to keep manufacturing the car?
Jose Luis Valls: We have Government regulations - sooner or later the story will end. But certainly it is a big champion. Tsuru is for reliability, durability, quality. It is a foundation for our product that will never let you down. From that platform of rational durability we are building the emotional part of Nissan, with all the new launches. We just launched Pathfinder, just launched Altima, Sentra. We are the leaders of the full-sized crossovers with the new Pathfinder.
We have a strong foundation of rational attributes, reliability, durability, with the emotion of innovation and excitement. Both together are making us very strong.
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