Nissan South Africa

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Nissan South Africa


Investing in Africa to achieve long-term


m growth


issan has been committed to South Africa for more than half a century, not just selling its world renown vehicles in the country but functioning as a hub for 42 other countries in Sub Saharan Africa, including Angola, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. Offering a range of locally produced and imported vehicles in these markets, it is responsible for a workforce of close to 2,500 people, with many of those working in manufacturing.

A COMMITMENT TO AFRICA Despite the automotive industry in sub-saharan Africa going through a tough period, Nissan has been able to stabilise its growth and still pump money into expanding operations. Nissan has faced these challenges head on, and has worked hard to make sure it serves Africa the best way it can. Each country’s industry is different, and that’s a crucial point to consider according to South Africa’s Managing Director Mike Whitfield.

“I think very simply is that wherever we go in Africa, we need to partner with a local partner. The importance of focus on the market that you’re in and knowledge of that market is critical,” he says. “So our strategy will always be to work with local partners and the markets in Africa. We will expand our presence by creating a regional office both in East Africa and in West Africa. “We believe local knowledge, local people can play a much more value added role than trying to operate from down South in Africa or North in Dubai, and it is really showing the commitment that we do have, and the belief that we have in the potential of Africa and growing our resource base there over time. “We still see Africa as a key part of our future strategy, very much part of our focus and a great area for growth opportunities. Obviously from an Africa perspective we don’t look at it in short term, we look at it very much in the medium to long term, to really realise the true potential.” MANUFACTURING AND SERVICE Africa may be suffering a downward trend in terms of growth, but Nissan are in it for the long haul. Its Rossyln factory, based near Pretoria, has been operating since the early 1950s. “In the long term we are very much looking forward to invest, to utilise the capacity that we have in our South African plant, and particularly making the South African plant our mother plant for other activities within Africa,” remarks Whitfield. “We are going to focus on this year is to prepare the plant and the skill level in the plant for future opportunities that no doubt will come up. We’re working very hard in preparing

the plant and the business to utilise the capacity that we do have available, and we are focussing on the new Navara, which has already been launched in Thailand, and we hope to be in a position that we can make a final decision and announcement during the course of this year. As we look at it at the moment, everything is very much on track.� A DISTINGUISHED BRAND In such a competitive industry, especially in South Africa where consumers are spending less on cars, it is essential that the Nissan brand stands out above the rest and offers vehicles across the whole spectrum from budget to high end. Nissan does that. Starting at entry level with an affordable Datsun, the Micra, all the way through an extensive crossover range, with the Qashqai and X-Trail ranges and the

Nissan SA Managing Director, Mike Mortimer.

luxurious Infinity brand. It allows customers to remain loyal to Nissan as their needs and desires change. “The journey through the Nissan family can start with Datsun and ultimately end with Infinity,. It gives people a wide range of growth within the brand, within the family, but very importantly, that we do need to offer the top levels of excitement, quality and without doubt peace of mind motoring on an ongoing basis,” says Whitfield. “What is very important for us is that our customers have a positive view of the brand and of the company, and we’d like to bring them back. One of the big opportunities we also have in Africa is there’s a massive emerging new customer that we need to bring into the brand and keep with us.” The Nissan brand has become synonymous with innovation and excitement, and the company strives to achieve a coordinated approach when it comes to worldwide synergy. Whitfield explains: “We need to be consistent in what we do with the brand, not only in the above the line advertising you will see, but many of our activities are recently announced involvement in ICC cricket, in the UEFA Cup, are all part of building that brand value of innovation and excitement.” THE NISSAN WAY Now MD, Whitfield is a great example of somebody who has worked up the ladder at Nissan. “I’ve grown up with the company. In fact it’s the only employer I’ve ever had,” he recalls. “After University I joined Nissan as a trainee. I had the unique opportunity of working in just about every area of the operation. During my course of my time in Nissan I’ve been in the truck business when we still owned UD Trucks, or Nissan

Diesel as it was known in those days. “I had a fortunate opportunity of developing and opening up our Nissan operations in Northern Europe and, in fact, I spent four years living in Finland and developing Nissan’s businesses in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states. “I then came back to South Africa about five years ago and have been focussing on developing and growing our presence, not only in South Africa but particularly in Africa. So I’m a Nissan person, that’s the only job I know, it’s the only place I’ve been, and certainly it’s a great company to be part of and a great brand to be associated with.” With such strong ties to the company, Whitfield has a wealth in experience of leading teams and understands more than most the Nissan way of operating effectively. “The biggest aspect is being able to balance your strategic outlook with the operational elements of it, and particularly the biggest challenge that one will find in today’s environment is that it’s very fast moving. :We have an economy, particularly in Africa, that can change very rapidly, and the ability is to bring and manage that change as we go through it, and bring the whole team along it. “So I think one of the biggest challenges is operating in an unpredictable environment, which Africa can be with tremendous up and down movements, and making sure we can keep our team with us and everyone focused on delivering the best results possible for all stakeholders.” With Whitfield leading the charge, Nissan looks set to drive forward its strong growth strategy in the continent.

Oliver Moy Publisher For enquiries email