José Román
President and Director General
Nissan Mexicana and NIBU
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View from the Top

Nissan Eyes Another 60 Years in Mexico: President José Román

By Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 06/14/2021 - 09:44

Q: How did recent challenges to the automotive sector make Nissan's manufacturing and sales operations more resilient?

A: This is a very interesting moment for the automotive industry. As I say to my teams: Never let go of the opportunity a crisis brings. The pandemic taught us many things, including resilience. We decided first and foremost to focus on our objectives and strengths. We know how to manufacture and sell cars. Thus, we designed a strategic plan to address the pandemic alongside employees, dealerships and suppliers. In this crisis, we continue to learn.

One of our most important priorities was to protect our teams. The recognition as an essential sector early in the pandemic evidenced the automotive sector’s relevance to the country’s economy. Nissan exports to over 80 countries. During the past month, we have been taking care of our employees and maintaining our world-class standards. The chip shortages have created an uncertain scenario but it is a challenge that the industry will eventually solve.

Q: How has Nissan strengthened consumers’ trust and loyalty during these uncertain times?

A: During a crisis, customers normally look for brands they trust and with a long tradition in the market. This is what happened in Mexico. Last year, Nissan grew its market share from 20 to 21 percent. It sounds easy but to grow 1 percent in a market as competitive as this one is a milestone. It is evident that we have the consumers' trust, preference and affection.

We unveiled a renewed product portfolio. Over the last 12 months, we have introduced new versions of best-selling models, such as NP300, Frontier, Kicks, March, Versa and Sentra. Our new products have been a total success; we have a wait list as of this moment.

New products bring new technologies and our new lineup introduces unprecedented technologies for certain segments; for instance, for entry-level models. All of our technological features are useful for the customer rather than just technology per se. Vehicle specifications for Versa or Kicks have different technological features for connectivity, safety and comfort as part of the Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies and features increase for higher-end segments. The key with new technologies is to place the right features in a well-trusted brand, such as Nissan.

This year marks Nissan’s 60th in Mexico. Our Cuernavaca plant built 55 years ago was our first one outside Japan. What better way to celebrate than with our market leadership and, more importantly, with the customer’s loyalty?

Q: How did Nissan support its dealership network and supplier base in Mexico amid the pandemic?

A: More than support, it is about strategy. We provided them certainty, clarity and a clear direction. The first thing we did was to protect our work teams. Once we ensured the safety of our teams at our facilities and corporate offices, we decided to resume production. With more than 15,000 people employed, we had a great responsibility to protect them. We also created crisis committees with distributors, employees and suppliers. Together we are stronger, as our motto says. We did the right thing for our employees and our customers too through Credi Nissan. This moment taught us that we owe ourselves to the Mexican market and we want to be here for 60 more years and beyond. The market is halfway to recovery and it still has a great deal of potential.

Q: From a general perspective, how have chip shortages influenced the automotive industry in Mexico?

A: The automotive industry in Mexico has always been closely related to the US from a long-term view. The pandemic is showing us that we also need to focus on the short term. The secret is to balance short- and long-term strategies. Chip shortages will eventually pass and the next step will be to develop more suppliers at different locations to avoid concentrating production in a single region. Over the last few years, supplier consolidation has proven to be successful, but chip shortages have made us rebalance our priorities.

Q:  What are Nissan sales and manufacturing priorities for the Mexican market?

A: Mexico is our fourth-most important market worldwide, after China, US, and Japan. Being the best seller in the country entails commitment with our customers to bring them state-of-the-art manufacturing quality. In manufacturing, we do not compete domestically; our factories compete against others across the world. Within Nissan North America, the facilities in Mexico produced the largest number of models. The lineups have proven successful. Sentra, Versa and Kicks have been really successful both in the US and Mexico, despite the pandemic. 2021 will be a year for stabilization and improvement and the sector will eventually put chip shortages behind it.

We have a strong dealership network with outstanding after-sales service and excellent sales teams. By combining these factors with our customer care the natural consequence is to hold first place and increase our market share. The right path is to focus on what our customers want, whether it is safety, intelligent mobility or electrification. We will continue to renew our lineup this year and there are more things coming for the market.

 

Nissan Motor Corporation is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Nissan Mexicana has been the top-selling brand in Mexico for 11 years straight. It has three manufacturing plants in the country, plus another dedicated to the INFINITI brand. In 2021, the brand is celebrating 60 years in the country.

Photo by:   Nissan Mexicana
Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst