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Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

17-1, Ginza 6-chome
Chuo-ku
Tokyo 104-8023
Japan
Telephone: (3) 5565-2147
Fax: (3) 3546-2669
Web site: http://global.nissan.co.jp

Public Company (37 Percent Owned by Renault S.A.)
Incorporated: 1933 as Jidosha Seizo Company, Ltd.
Employees: 131,260
Sales: ¥6.58 trillion (US$54.38 billion) (1999)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Osaka Niigata Nagoya Kyoto
Fukuoka Sapporo Frankfurt NASDAQ (ADRs)
NAIC: 336111 Automobile Manufacturing; 336112 Light Truck and Utility Vehicle Manufacturing; 336120 Heavy Duty Truck Manufacturing; 336211 Motor Vehicle Body Manufacturing; 421110 Automobile and Other Motor Vehicle Wholesalers; 522291 Consumer Lending; 532111 Passenger Cars Rental; 532112 Passenger Cars Leasing; 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies

Established in 1933, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. was a pioneer in the manufacturing of automobiles. Nearly 70 years later, Nissan has become one of the worlds leading automakers, with annual production of 2.4 million units, which represented 4.9 percent of the global market. Domestically, the company sells 774,000 vehicles on an annual basis, placing it second behind Toyota Motor Corporation. About 35 percent of Nissans vehicles are sold in Japan, 25 percent in the United States, and 20 percent in Europe. In the North American market, the companys top models include the Infiniti, Maxima, Altima, and Sentra passenger cars, the Quest minivan, the Frontier pickup truck, and the Pathfinder sport utility vehicle. After losing money for most of the 1990s, Nissan entered into a global alliance with Renault S.A. in March 1999, with the French company taking a 37 percent stake in Nissan. A massive restructuring was then launched.

Early History

In 1911 Masujiro Hashimoto, a U.S.-trained engineer, founded the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works in Tokyo. Hashimoto dreamed of building the first Japanese automobile, but lacked the capital. In order for his dream to come true, he contacted three menKenjiro Den, Rokuro Auyama, and Keitaro Takeuchifor financial support. To acknowledge their contribution to his project, Hashimoto named his car DAT, after their last initials. In Japanese, datmeans escaping rabbit or running very fast.

Debuting in 1914, the first DAT was marketed and sold as a ten horsepower runabout. Another version, referred to asdatsonorson of dat, was a two-seater sports car produced in 1918. One year later, Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo Company, another Nissan predecessor, was founded in Osaka. Kwaishinsha and Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo combined in 1926 to establish the Dat Jidosha Seizo Company. Five years later, the Tobata Imaon Company, an automotive parts manufacturer, purchased controlling interest in the company. Tobata Imaons objective was to mass-produce products that would be competitive in quality and price with foreign automobiles.

In 1932, DatsonbecameDatsun,thus associating it with the ancient Japanese sun symbol. The manufacturing and sale of Datsun cars was taken over in 1933 by the Jidosha Seizo Company, Ltd., which was established in Yokohama that year through a joint venture between Nihon Sangyo Company and Tobata Imaon. In 1934 the company changed its name to Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and one year later the operation of Nissans first integrated automobile factory began in Yokohama under the technical guidance of American industrial engineers.

Datsun cars, however, were not selling as well as expected in Japan. Major U.S. automobile manufacturers, such as General Motors Corporation (GM) and the Ford Motor Company, had established assembly plants in Japan during this time. These companies dominated the automobile market in Japan for ten years, while foreign companies were discouraged from exporting to the United States by the Great Depression of 1929.

With the advent of World War II in 1941, Nissans efforts were directed toward military production. During wartime, the Japanese government ordered the motor industry to halt production of passenger cars and, instead, to produce much needed trucks. Nissan also produced engines for airplanes and torpedo boats.

Postwar Recovery and Overseas Expansion

After World War II, the Japanese auto industry had to be completely recreated. Technical assistance contracts were established with foreign firms such as Renault, Hillman, and Willys-Overland. In 1952 Nissan reached a license agreement with the United Kingdoms Austin Motor Company Ltd. With American technical assistance and improved steel and parts from Japan, Nissan became capable of producing small, efficient cars, which later provided the company with a marketing advantage in the United States.

The U.S. market was growing, but gradually. Nonetheless, Nissan felt that Americans needed low-priced economy cars, perhaps as a second family car. Surveys of the U.S. auto industry encouraged Nissan to display its cars at the Imported Motor Car Show in Los Angeles. The exhibition was noticed by Business Week, but as an analyst wrote in 1957, With over 50 foreign car makers already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isnt likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself.

Nissan considered this criticism as it struggled to improve domestic sales. Small-scale production resulted in high unit costs and high prices. In fact, a large percentage of Datsun cars were sold to Japanese taxi companies. Yet Kawamata, the companys new and ambitious president, was determined to increase exports to the United States. Kawamata noted two principal reasons for his focus on exports: Increased sales to the U.S.A. would give Nissan more prestige and credit in the domestic markets as well as other areas and a further price cut is possible through mass producing export cars.

By 1958 Nissan had contracted with two U.S. distributors, Woolverton Motors of North Hollywood, California, and Chester G. Luby of Forest Hills, New York. Nevertheless, sales did not improve as quickly as Nissan had hoped. As a result, Nissan sent two representatives to the United States to help increase sales: Soichi Kawazoe, an engineer and former employee of GM and Ford; and Yutaka Katayama, an advertising and sales promotion executive. Each identified a need for the development of a new company to sell and service Datsuns in the United States. By 1960 Nissan Motor Corporation, based in Los Angeles, had 18 employees, 60 dealers, and a sales total of 1,640 cars and trucks. The success of the Datsun pickup truck in the U.S. market encouraged new dealerships.

Datsun assembly plants were built in Mexico and Peru during the 1960s. In 1966 Nissan merged with the Prince Motor Company Ltd.gaining the Skyline and Gloria modelsand two years later Datsun passenger cars began production in Australia. During 1969 cumulative vehicle exports reached one million units. This was a result of Katayama and Kawazoes efforts to teach Japanese manufacturers to build automobiles comparable to U.S. cars. This meant developing mechanical similarities and engine capacities that could keep up with American traffic.

The introduction of the Datsun 240Z marked the debut of foreign sports cars in the U.S. market. Datsun began to receive good reviews from automotive publications in the United States, and sales began to improve. Also at this time, the first robotics were installed in Nissan factories to help increase production.

1970s and 1980s: From Economy Cars to Luxury Sedans

In 1970, Japan launched its first satellite on a Nissan rocket. Only five years later, Nissan export sales reached $5 million. But allegations surfaced that Nissan U.S.A. waspressuring and restricting its dealers in various ways: requiring them to sell at list prices, limiting their ability to discount, enforcing territorial limitations,according to author John B. Rae. In 1973 Nissan U.S.A. agreed to abide by a decree issued from the U.S. Department of Justice that prohibited it from engaging in such activities.

The 1970s marked a slump in the Japanese auto industry as a result of the oil crisis. Gasoline prices started to increase, and then a number of other difficulties arose. U.S. President Richard Nixon devalued the dollar and announced an import surcharge: transportation prices went up and export control was lacking. To overcome these problems, Nissan U.S.A. brought in Chuck King, a 19-year veteran of the auto industry, to improve management, correct billing errors, and minimize transportation damages. As a result, sales continued to increase with the help of Nissans latest model, the Datsun 210Honeybee,which was capable of traveling 41 miles on one gallon of gas.

In 1976 the company began the production of motorboats. During this time, the modification of the Datsun model to U.S. styling also began. Additions included sophisticated detailing, roof racks, and air conditioning. The new styling of the Datsun automobiles was highlighted with the introduction of the 1980 model 200SX.

Company Perspectives:

Nissans challenge is to enhance its corporate value and to build a corporate foundation that will enable the Company to win out in the competitive environment of the 21st century. The management team is also keenly aware of its responsibility to meet the expectations of shareholders by reinstating dividend payments as soon as possible. We will do our utmost to achieve a new corporate consciousness and to implement sweeping improvements in our corporate structure. We look forward to the continuing support and guidance of our shareholders as we strive to attain these goals.

During the 1980s Nissan established production facilities in Italy, Spain, West Germany, and the United Kingdom. An aerospace cooperative agreement with Martin Marietta Corporation also was concluded, and the Nissan CUE-X and MID4 prototypes were introduced. In 1981, the company began the long and costly process of changing its name from Datsun to Nissan in the U.S. market.

The new generation of Nissan automobiles included high-performance luxury sedans. They featured electronic control, variable split four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, anintelligentengine, and a satellite navigation system, as well as other technological innovations. Clearly, the management of Nissan had made a commitment to increase expenditures for research and development. In 1986 Nissan reported that the companys budget for research and development reached ¥170 billion, or 4.5 percent of net sales.

During the late 1980s, Nissan evaluated future consumer trends. From this analysis, Nissan predicted that consumers would prefer a car with high performance, high speed, innovative styling, and versatile options. All of these factors were taken into account to forma clear image of the car in the environment in which it will be used,said Yukio Miyamori, a director of Nissan. Cultural differences also were considered in this evaluation. One result of this extensive market analysis was the companys 1989 introduction of its Infiniti line of luxury automobiles.

The use of robotics and computer-aided design and manufacturing reduced the time required for computations on aerodynamics, combustion, noise, and vibration characteristics, enabling Nissan to have an advantage in both the domestic and foreign markets. The strategy of Nissans management during the late 1980s was to improve the companys productivity and thus increase future competitiveness.

Sustained Difficulties in the 1990s

By the start of the next decade, however, Nissans fortunes began to decline. Profits and sales dropped, quelling hopes that the 1990s would be as lucrative as the 1980s. Nissan was not alone in its backward tumble, however: each of the major Japanese car makers suffered damaging blows as the decade began. The yens value rose rapidly against the dollar, which crimped U.S. sales and created a substantial price disparity between Japanese and U.S. cars. At the same time, the United States three largest automobile manufacturers showed a surprising resurgence during the early 1990s. According to some observers, Japanese manufacturers had grown complacent after recording prolific gains to surpass U.S. manufacturers. In the more cost-conscious 1990s, they allowed the price of their products to rise just as U.S. manufacturers reduced costs, improved efficiency, and offered more innovative products.

In addition, the global recession that sent many national economies into a tailspin in the early 1990s caught Nissan with its resources thinly stretched as a result of its bid to unseat its largest Japanese rival, Toyota Motor Corporation. Toyota, much larger than Nissan and possessing deeper financial pockets, was better positioned to sustain the losses incurred from the global economic downturn. Consequently, Nissan entered its ninth decade of operation facing formidable obstacles.

The first financial decline came in 1991, when the companys consolidated operating profit plummeted 64.3 percent to ¥125 billion (US$886 million). Six months later, Nissan registered its first pretax loss since becoming a publicly traded company in 1951¥14.2 billion during the first half of 1992. The losses mounted in the next two years, growing to ¥108.1 billion in 1993 and ¥202.4 billion by 1994, or nearly US$2 billion. To arrest the precipitous drop in company profits, Nissans management introduced various cost-cutting measuressuch as reducing its materials and manufacturing costswhich saved the company roughly US$1.5 billion in 1993, with an additional US$1.2 billion savings realized in 1994. Nissan also became the first Japanese company to close a plant in Japan since World War II and cut nearly 12,000 workers in Japan, Spain, and the United States from its payroll. Nissan also was staggering under a debt load that reached as high as US$32 billion and threatened to bankrupt the company. Only intervention from Nissans lead lender, Industrial Bank of Japan, kept the company afloat.

Key Dates:

1911:
Masujiro Hashimoto founds the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works in Tokyo.
1914:
Hashimoto introduces his first car, the DAT.
1918:
The Datson model is first produced.
1932:
The Datson brand is changed to Datsun.
1933:
The manufacturing and sale of Datsun cars is taken over by the Jidosha Seizo Company, Ltd.
1934:
Jidosha Seizo changes its name to Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
Early 1940s:
During World War II, the company makes military trucks and engines for airplanes and torpedo boats.
1951:
Nissan becomes a publicly traded company.
1952:
Nissan enters into a license agreement with U.K.-based Austin Motor Company Ltd.
1958:
Export of cars to the U.S. market begins.
1966:
The company merges with Prince Motor Company Ltd.
1981:
The company begins changing its name from Datsun to Nissan in the U.S. market.
1989:
The Infiniti line of luxury automobiles is introduced.
1992:
The company posts the first pretax loss in its history as a public company; Nissan introduces the Altima small luxury sedan and the Quest minivan, the latter a joint development with Ford Motor Company.
1994:
Nissan posts a loss of nearly US$2 billion.
1999:
Nissan and Renault S.A. enter into a global alliance, with Renault taking a 37 percent stake in Nissan. A massive restructuring begins.

There were some positive signs in the early 1990s to inspire hope for the future. Nissans 1993 sales increased nearly 20 percent, vaulting the car maker past Honda Motor Co., Ltd. to reclaim the number two ranking in import sales to the all-important U.S. market. Much of this gain was attributable to robust sales of the Nissan Altima, a replacement for its Stanza model, which was introduced in 1992 and marketed in the United States as a small luxury sedan priced under $13,000. To the joy of Nissans management, however, the Altima typically was purchased with various options added on, giving the company an additional $2,000 to $3,000 per car. Nissan also was encouraged by strong sales of its Quest minivan, which was introduced in the United States in 1992 and had been developed jointly with Ford Motor, which marketed its own version, the Ford Windstar.

Nissans losses continued through the fiscal year ending in March 1996, cumulating to US$3.2 billion over a four-year span. The companys return to profitability in fiscal 1997 came about in part because of the cost-cutting program and in part from the yens dramatic depreciation against the dollar. Despite the return to the black, Nissan remained a troubled company. From its 1972 peak of 34 percent, the companys share of the Japanese auto market had fallen to 20 percent by early 1997. Competition from the more financially stable Toyota and Honda played a factor in this decline, but Nissan also hurt itself by failing to keep pace with changing consumer tastes both in Japan and in overseas markets. For example, Nissan was behind its rivals in adding minivans and sport utility vehicles to its product lineup, having for years dismissed these sectors as passing fads. Meanwhile, minivans, sport utility vehicles, and station wagons accounted for half of all passenger car sales in Japan by early 1997, up from just more than ten percent in 1990. In the U.S. market, the Altima lost ground to two midsized rivals, the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry, because Nissans model was smaller and thus less desirable. In the luxury car sector, Toyotas Lexus line became the hot brand in the United States, triumphing over the Infiniti. Because of these and other factors, Nissan returned to the red for fiscal years 1998 and 1999. Although the losses were not as large as earlier in the decade, the companys continued sky-high debt loadwhich stood at US$19.7 billion in late 1998did not bode well for Nissans future.

1999 and Beyond: The Renault Era

The late 1990s was a period of intense consolidation in the auto industry, stemming from rapid globalization, the increasing cost of developing ever more sophisticated vehicles, and worldwide automotive production overcapacity. The November 1998 merger of Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corporation that formed DaimlerChrysler AG was the largest partnership created in this period, but there were a number of smaller mergers, acquisitions, and strategic alliances as well. Both Nissan and Renault S.A. of France were eagerly looking for a partner in order to compete in the 21st century. Nissan was rebuffed by both DaimlerChrysler and Ford and Renault was turned away by other Japanese automakers, before the two companies reached an agreement on a global alliance in March 1999. The combination of Nissan and Renault made strategic sense in that the companies main sales territories and production locales were complementary. In vehicle sales, Nissan was strongest in Japan and other parts of Asia, the United States, Mexico, the Middle East, and South Africa, while Renault concentrated on Europe, Turkey, and South America. The production side followed a similar pattern. On a global basis, the two companies held just more than a nine percent market share, which would position the combination number four in the worldwide auto industry.

As part of the agreement, Renault pumped US$5.4 billion into cash-hungry Nissan in exchange for a 37 percent stake in Nissan Motor and a 22.5 percent stake (later raised to 26 percent) in Nissan Diesel Motor Co., a heavy truck unit. Although it did not secure complete control of Nissan, Renault gained veto power over capital expenditures and installed Carlos Ghosn (rhymes withbone) as Nissans chief operating officer (he became president as well in 2000). The Brazilian-born Ghosn was an executive vice-president at Renault and had engineered a rapid turnaround there after joining the company in 1996. French newspapers tagged him with the nicknamele cost killerbecause of his tenacious approach to cost cuttinghis Renault restructuring slashed US$3.5 billion in costs over a three-year period.

The capital injection from Renault quickly reduced Nissans debt load to ¥1.4 trillion (US$13 billion). Ghosn rapidly began implementing a massive restructuring of Nissan. Nonautomotive operations began to be divested, including mobile and car telephone operations and the aerospace division. Nissans fork-lift unit was likely to be sold and Nissan Diesel was a candidate for sale as well, given that Nissan Motor had declared that making cars and light trucks was its core business. In early 2000 Nissan sold a stake it held in Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. As for the automotive operations, Ghosn in October 1999 laid out a tough cost-containment program slated to be completed by 2002. The program included: a 14 percent workforce reductionrepresenting 21,000 jobs, primarily in Japanthrough attrition, early retirement, and noncore business spinoffs; the closure of five production plants in Japan in 2001 and 2002; the slashing of ¥1 trillion (US$9.5 billion) in annual costs, including a 20 percent reduction in purchasing costs and a 20 percent cut in overhead, the latter to include the elimination of one-fifth of Japanese Nissan dealers; and a 50 percent reduction in debt, to ¥700 billion (US$6.5 billion). Ghosn also began tackling the crucial need for a revitalization of Nissans bland line of vehicles by substantially increasing capital spending, toward a goal of speeding new products to market four times faster than before. Although such a restructuring was by this time routine in the United States and becoming more commonplace in Europe, Ghosns plan ran counter to many established business practices in Japan. The biggest question was whether Ghosn could implement the plan without resorting to large-scale layoffs in Japan, which would likely face fierce opposition from workers and labor unions and even from leaders of other Japanese firms. Perhaps to underscore the seriousness of his mission and his determination to turn Nissan around, Ghosn also announced that he would resign if Nissan was not profitable by March 2001.

Principal Subsidiaries

Autech Japan, Inc.; JATCO Corporation; NDC Co., Ltd.; Nissan Altia Co., Ltd.; Nissan Car Leasing Co., Ltd.; Nissan Finance Co., Ltd.; Nissan Co., Ltd.; Nissan Kohki Co., Ltd.; Nissan Motor Car Carrier Co., Ltd.; Nissan Texsys Co., Ltd.; Nissan Trading Co., Ltd.; Nissan Transport Co., Ltd.; Rhythm Corporation; Tachi-S Co., Ltd.; Tennex Co., Ltd.; Vantec Corporation; Nissan Sunny Tokyo Motor Sales Co., Ltd.; Nissan Prince Tokyo Motor Sales Co., Ltd.; Tokyo Nissan Motor Sales Co.; Aichi Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.; Nissan Capital of America, Inc. (U.S.A.); Nissan CR Corporation (U.S.A.); Nissan Design International, Inc. (U.S.A.); Nissan Finance of America, Inc. (U.S.A.); Nissan Forklift Corporation, North America (U.S.A.); Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (U.S.A.); Nissan Motor Corporation in Guam; Nissan Motor Corporation in Hawaii, Ltd. (U.S.A.); Nissan North America, Inc. (U.S.A.); Nissan Research & Development, Inc. (U.S.A.); Nissan Textile Ma Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. chinery Corporation in U.S.A.; Nissan Canada, Inc.; Nissan Canada Finance, Inc.; Nissan Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. (Mexico); Nissan European Technology Centre Ltd. (U.K.); Nissan International Finance (Europe) PLC (U.K.); Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd. (U.K.); Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd.; Nissan Europe N.V. (Netherlands); Nissan Finance, B.V. (Netherlands); Nissan International Finance (Netherlands) B.V.; Nissan Motor Netherland B.V.; Nissan France S.A.; Nissan Bank GmbH (Germany); Nissan Design Europe GmbH (Germany); Nissan Motor (Schweiz) AG (Switzerland); Nissan Motor Iberica, S.A. (Spain); Nissan Financiacion, S.A. (Spain); Nissan Motor España, S.A. (Spain); Nissan European Technology Centre España, S.A. (Spain); Nissan Italia S.p.A. (Italy); Nissan Finanziaria S.p.A. (Italy); Nissan Motor Co. (Australia) Pty, Ltd.; Nissan Datsun Holdings Ltd. (New Zealand); Nissan Middle East F.Z.E. (United Arab Emirates); Nissan Motor (China) Ltd.

Principal Competitors

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG; DaimlerChrysler AG; Fiat S.p.A.; Ford Motor Company; Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.; General Electric Company; General Motors Corporation; Honda Motor Co., Ltd.; Hyundai Group; Isuzu Motors Limited; Kia Motors Co., Ltd.; Mazda Motor Corporation; Mitsubishi Group; Outboard Marine Corporation; PSA Peugeot Citroen S.A.; Saab Automobile AB; Suzuki Motor Corporation; Toyota Motor Corporation; Volkswagen AG; AB Volvo; Yamaha Corporation.

Further Reading

Armstrong, Larry, Can Nissan Regain Its Youth?, Business Week, July 13, 1998, p. 132.

Beatty, Sally Goll, Mixed Message: Nissans Ad Campaign Was a Hit Everywhere But in the Showrooms, Wall Street Journal, April 8, 1997, pp. Al +.

Chang, C.S., The Japanese Auto Industry and the U.S. Market, New York: Praeger, 1981.

Chrysler, Mack, Tackling a Big Turnaround: Nissan Chief Says Automakers Suffering Is Solvable, Wards Auto World, December 1998, p. 14.

Crate, James R., Japans Big Five Atone for Sins of Late 80s: Drive to Cut Costs Focuses on Proliferation of Parts, Automotive News, May 17, 1993, p. 19.

, Nissan Posts $273 Million Loss, Automotive News, November 1, 1993, p. 8.

Diem, William, The Renault Nissan Deal, Wards Auto World, May 30, 1999.

Edmondson, Gail, and Emily Thornton, He Revved Up Renault. Will Nissan Be Next?, Business Week (international ed.), April 12, 1999, p. 23.

Edmondson, Gail, et al., Dangerous Liaison: It Could Take 10 Years for Renault-Nissan to Yield a Return, Business Week (international ed.), March 29, 1999, p. 22.

Gross, Ken, Doomed to Niches?, Automotive Industries, May 1992,p. 13.

, Learning from Mistakes, Automotive Industries, March 1994,p. 64.

Inaba, Yu, Nissan Motor Company: Aiming for the Top Spot, Tokyo Business Today, December 1988, pp. 50 +.

, Nissans Management Revolution, Tokyo Business Today, October 1989, pp. 38 +.

Johnson, Richard, Nissan Loss Widens to Nearly $2 Billion, Automotive News, June 6, 1994, p. 6.

Maskery, Mary Ann, Nissan Gets First Taste of Red Ink, Automotive News, November 9, 1992, p. 6.

Miller, Karen Lowry, and Larry Armstrong, Will Nissan Get It Right This Time? After a Decade of Trouble, the Carmaker Is Making Major Changes, Business Week, April 20, 1992, p. 82.

Nissan Earnings Dive 64.3 Percent, Automotive News, June 3, 1991, p. 4.

Sapsford, Jathon, A Tuned-Up Nissan Takes on Its Rivals, Wall Street Journal, August 12, 1997, p. A1O.

Shirouzu, Norihiko, Nissan Calls Truck Unit Noncore, Possibly Signaling Eventual Sale, Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2000,p. A12.

, Nissans Revival Relies on Operating Chiefs Agility, Wall Street Journal, October 18, 1999, p. A37.

Simison, Robert L., Nissans Crisis Was Made in the U.S.A., Wall Street Journal, November 25, 1998, p. Bl.

Simison, Robert L., and Norihiko Shirouzu, Nissan Unveils Tough Program to Cut Costs, Asian Wall Street Journal, October 19,1999, p. 1.

Sobel, Robert, Car Wars: The Untold Story, New York: Dutton, 1984.

Strom, Stephanie, Can Nissan Turn on a Centime: Trying to Revamp a Company and a Corporate Culture, New York Times, October 14,1999, p. CI.

, No. 2 and Not Enjoying the Ride: Nissan Announces New Losses and Sweeping Changes, New York Times, May 21, 1998, p. Dl.

Taylor, Alex, III, The Man Who Vows to Change Japan Inc., Fortune, December 20, 1999, pp. 189-90 +.

Thornton, Emily, Remaking Nissan, Business Week (international ed.), November 15, 1999, pp. 38 +.

Thornton, Emily, and Kathleen Kerwin, Back in the Mud: Nissans Makeover Hasnt Jump-Started Profits, Business Week (international ed.), November 2, 1998, p. 26.

Thornton, Emily, and Larry Armstrong, Nissans Slow U-Turn: Its Recovery Is Far from Complete, Business Week, May 12, 1997, p. 54.

Thornton, Emily, et al., A New Order at Nissan, Business Week, October 11, 1999, p. 54.

Updike, Edith, et al., Japan Is Back, Business Week, February 19,1996, pp. 42.+

Weinberg, Neil, Member of the Pack, Forbes, May 19, 1997, p. 65.

Woodruff, David, Cultural Chasm: Renault Faces Hurdles in Bid to Turn Nissan Around, Asian Wall Street Journal, March 31, 1999,p. 1.

Jeffrey L. Covell

updated by David E. Salamie

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Nissan Motor Company, Ltd.

Nissan Motor Company, Ltd.

17-1, Ginza, 6-chome Chuo-ku
Tokyo 104
Japan
81-354 355 23

Public Company
Incorporated:
1933
Employees: 139,000
Sales: ¥5.8 trillion ($55.8 billion)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Osaka Niigata Nagoya Kyoto
Fukuoka Supporo Frankfurt
SICs: 6719 Holding Companies, Nee; 3711 Motor Vehicles
and Car Bodies; 3713 Truck and Bus Bodies; 3714 Motor
Vehicle Parts and Accessories

Established in 1933, Nissan Motor Company, Ltd. was a pioneer in the manufacturing of automobiles. More than a half-century later, Nissan has become one of the worlds leading automobile manufacturers, with annual sales of approximately ¥5.8 trillion and annual production of 2.9 million units, which represented 6.6 percent of the global market. In addition to cars and sport-utility vehicles, Nissan also produced textile machinery, forklifts, marine engines, watercraft, and even the solid-propellant launch vehicles used in Japans space program.

In 1911 Masujiro Hashimoto, an American-trained engineer, founded the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works in Tokyo. Hashimoto dreamed of building the first Japanese automobile, but lacked the capital. In order for his dream to come true, he contacted three menKenjiro Den, Rokuro Auyama, and Keitaro Takeuchifor financial support. To acknowledge their contribution to his project, Hashimoto named his car DAT, after their last initials. In Japanese, dat means escaping rabbit or running very fast.

The first DAT was marketed and sold as a 10-horsepower runabout. Another version, referred to as datson or son of dat, was a two-seater sports car produced in 1918. One year later, Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo Company, another Nissan predecessor, was founded in Osaka. Kwaishinsha and Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo combined in 1926 to establish the Dat Jidosha Seizo Company. Five years later, the Tobata Imaon Company, an automotive parts manufacturer, purchased controlling interest in the company. Tobata Imaons objective was to mass-produce products that would be competitive in quality and price with foreign automobiles.

In 1932, Datson became Datsun, thus associating it with the ancient Japanese sun symbol. The manufacturing and sale of Datsun cars was controlled by the Jidosha Seizo Company, established in Yokohama through a joint venture between Nihon Sangyo Company and Tobata Imaon. In 1934 the company changed its name to Nissan, and one year later the operation of Nissans first integrated automobile factory began in Yokohama under the technical guidance of American industrial engineers.

However, Datsun cars were not selling as well as expected in Japan. Major American automobile manufacturers, such as General Motors Corporation and the Ford Motor Company, had established assembly plants in Japan during this time. These companies dominated the automobile market in Japan for 10 years, while foreign companies were discouraged from exporting to the United States by the Great Depression of 1929.

With the advent of World War II in 1941, Nissans efforts were directed toward military production. During wartime, the Japanese government ordered the motor industry to halt production of passenger cars and instead produce much-needed trucks. After World War II, the Japanese auto industry had to be completely re-created. Technical assistance contracts were established with foreign firms such as Renault, Hillman, and Willys-Overland. In 1952 Nissan reached a license agreement with the United Kingdoms Austin Motor Company Ltd. With American technical assistance and improved steel and parts from Japan, Nissan became capable of producing small, efficient cars, which later provided the company with a marketing advantage in the United States.

The U.S. market was growing, but very gradually. Nonetheless, Nissan felt that Americans needed low-priced economy cars, perhaps as a second family car. Surveys of the American auto industry encouraged Nissan to display its cars at the Imported Motor Car Show in Los Angeles. The exhibition was noticed by Business Week, but as an analyst wrote in 1957, With over 50 foreign car makers already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isnt likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself.

Nissan considered this criticism as it struggled to improve domestic sales. Small-scale production resulted in high unit costs and high prices. In fact, a large percentage of Datsun cars were sold to Japanese taxi companies. Yet Kawamata, the companys new and ambitious president, was determined to increase exports to the United States. Kawamata noted two principal reasons for his focus on exports: Increased sales to the U.S.A. would give Nissan more prestige and credit in the domestic markets as well as other areas and a further price cut is possible through mass producing export cars.

By 1958 Nissan had contracted with two U.S. distributors, Woolverton Motors of North Hollywood, California, and Chester G. Luby of Forest Hills, New York. However, sales did not improve as quickly as Nissan had hoped. As a result, Nissan sent two representatives to the United States in order to help increase sales: Soichi Kawazoe, an engineer and former employee of GM and Ford; and Yutaka Katayama, an advertising and sales promotion executive. Each identified a need for the development of a new company to sell and service Datsuns in America. By 1960 Nissan Motor Company U.S.A. had 18 employees, 60 dealers, and a sales total of 1,640 cars and trucks. The success of the Datsun pickup truck in the U.S. market encouraged new dealerships.

Datsun assembly plants were built in Mexico and Peru during the 1960s. In 1966 Nissan merged with the Prince Motor Company Ltd., and two years later Datsun passenger cars began production in Australia. During the year of 1969 cumulative vehicle exports reached one million units. This was a result of Katayama and Kawazoes efforts to teach Japanese manufacturers to build automobiles comparable to American cars. This meant developing mechanical similarities and engine capacities that could keep up with American traffic.

The introduction of the Datsun 240Z marked the debut of foreign sports cars in the American market. Datsun began to receive good reviews from automotive publications in the United States, and sales began to improve. Also at this time, the first robotics were installed in Nissan factories to help increase production. In 1970, Japan launched its first satellite on a Nissan rocket.

Only five years later, Nissan export sales reached $5 million. But allegations surfaced that Nissan U.S.A. was pressuring and restricting its dealers in various ways: requiring them to sell at list prices, limiting their ability to discount, enforcing territorial limitations, according to author John B. Rae. In 1973 Nissan U.S.A. agreed to abide by a decree issued from the U.S. Department of Justice that prohibited it from engaging in such activities.

The 1970s marked a slump in the Japanese auto industry as a result of the oil crisis. Gasoline prices started to increase, and then a number of other difficulties arose. American President Richard Nixon devalued the dollar and announced an import surcharge: transportation prices went up and export control was lacking. To overcome these problems, Nissan U.S.A. brought in Chuck King, a 19-year veteran of the auto industry, to improve management, correct billing errors, and minimize transportation damages. As a result, sales continued to increase with the help of Nissans latest model, the Datsun 210 Honeybee, which was capable of travelling 41 miles on one gallon of gas.

In 1976 the company began the production of motorboats. During this time, the modification of the Datsun model to American styling also began. Additions included sophisticated detailing, roof racks, and air conditioning. The new styling of the Datsun automobiles was highlighted with the introduction of the 1980 model 200SX.

During the 1980s Nissan established production facilities in Italy, Spain, West Germany, and the United Kingdom. An aerospace cooperative agreement with Martin Marietta Corporation was also concluded, and the Nissan CUE-X and MID4 prototypes were introduced. In 1981, the company began the long and costly process of changing its name from Datsun to Nissan in the American market.

The new generation of Nissan automobiles included high-performance luxury sedans. They featured electronic control, variable split four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, an intelligent engine, a satellite navigation system, as well as other technological innovations. Clearly, the management of Nissan had made a commitment to increase expenditures for research and development. In 1986 Nissan reported that the companys budget for research and development reached ¥170 billion, or 4.5 percent of net sales.

During the late 1980s, Nissan evaluated future consumer trends. From this analysis, Nissan predicted consumers would prefer a car with high performance, high speed, innovative styling, and versatile options. All of these factors were taken into account to form a clear image of the car in the environment in which it will be used, said Yukio Miyamori, a director of Nissan. Cultural differences were also considered in this evaluation. One result of this extensive market analysis was the companys 1989 introduction of its Infiniti line of luxury automobiles.

The use of robotics and computer-aided design and manufacturing reduced the time required for computations on aerodynamics, combustion, noise, and vibration characteristics, enabling Nissan to have an advantage in both the domestic and foreign markets. The strategy of Nissans management during the late 1980s was to improve the companys productivity and thus increase future competitiveness.

By the start of the next decade, however, Nissans fortunes began to decline. Profits and sales dropped, quelling hopes that the 1990s would be as lucrative as the 1980s. Nissan was not alone in its backward tumble, however: each of the major Japanese car makers suffered damaging blows as the decade began. The yens value rose rapidly against the dollar, which crimped U.S. sales and created a substantial price disparity between Japanese and American cars. At the same time, Americas three largest automobile manufacturers showed a surprising resurgence during the early 1990s. According to some observers, Japanese manufacturers had grown complacent after recording prolific gains to surpass U.S. manufacturers. In the more cost-conscious 1990s, they allowed the price of their products to rise just as U.S. manufacturers reduced costs, improved efficiency, and offered more innovative products.

In addition, the global recession that sent many national economies into a tailspin in the early 1990s caught Nissan with its resources thinly stretched as a result of its bid to unseat its largest Japanese rival, Toyota Motor Corporation. Toyota, much larger than Nissan and possessing deeper financial pockets, was better positioned to sustain the losses incurred from the global economic downturn. Consequently, Nissan entered its ninth decade of operation facing formidable obstacles.

The first financial decline came in 1991, when the companys consolidated operating profit plummeted 64.3 percent to ¥125 billion ($886 million). Six months later, Nissan registered its first pre-tax loss since becoming a publicly traded company in 1951¥14.2 billion during the first half of 1992. The losses mounted in the next two years, growing to ¥108.1 billion in 1993 and ¥202.4 billion by 1994, or nearly $2 billion. To arrest the precipitous drop in company profits, Nissans management introduced various cost-cutting measuressuch as reducing its materials and manufacturing costswhich saved the company roughly $1.5 billion in 1993, with an additional $1.15 billion savings expected to be realized in 1994. But for Japans second-largest car manufacturer and the worlds fifth-largest, the road ahead still loomed ominously.

As the company prepared for the remainder of the 1990s, however, there were some positive signs to inspire hope for the future. Nissans 1993 sales increased nearly 20 percent, vaulting the car maker past Honda Motor Company to reclaim the number-two ranking in import sales to the all-important U.S. market. Much of this gain was attributable to robust sales of the Nissan Altima, a replacement for its Stanza model, which was marketed in the United States as a small luxury sedan priced under $13,000. To the joy of Nissans management, however, the Altima was typically purchased with various options added on, giving the company an additional $2,000 to $3,000 per car. Buoyed by the success of the Altima and encouraged by strong sales of its Quest minivan, Nissan entered the mid-1990s dispirited by its losses, but aspiring toward a profitable future.

Principal Subsidiaries

Nissan Aichi Machine Industry Co., Ltd.; Atsugi Motor Parts Co., Ltd.; Ikeda Bussan Co., Ltd.; Japan Automatic Transmissions Co., Ltd.; Japan Electronic Control Systems Co., Ltd.; Kanto Seiki Co., Ltd.; Kiriu Machine Mfg. Co., Ltd.; NDC Co., Ltd.; Nihon Radiator Co., Ltd.; Nissan Credit Corp.; Nissan Diesel Motor Co., Ltd.; Nissan Koki Co., Ltd.; Nissan Motor Car Carrier Co., Ltd.; Nissan Motorist Service Co., Ltd.; Nissan Motor Sales Co., Ltd.; Nissan Real Estate Co., Ltd.; Nissan Rikuso Co., Ltd.; Nissan Shatai Co., Ltd.; Nissan Trading Co., Ltd.; Rhythm Motor Parts Mfg. Co., Ltd., Tokyo Sokuhan Co., Ltd.; Tsuchiya Mfg. Co., Ltd.; Yokohama Transportation Co., Ltd.

Further Reading

Chang, C.S., The Japanese Auto Industry and the U.S. Market, New York: Praeger, 1981.

Crate, James R., Japans Big Five Atone for Sins of Late 80s: Drive to Cut Costs Focuses on Proliferation of Parts, Automotive News, May 17, 1993, p. 19.

Crate, Nissan Posts $273 Million Loss, Automotive News, November 1, 1993, p. 8.

Gross, Ken, Doomed to Niches?, Automotive Industries, May 1992, p. 13.

Gross, Learning from Mistakes, Automotive Industries, March 1994, P. 64.

Johnson, Richard, Nissan Loss Widens to Nearly $2 Billion, Automotive News, June 6, 1994, p. 6.

Maskery, Mary Ann, Nissan Gets First Taste of Red Ink, Automotive News, November 9, 1992, p. 6.

Miller, Karen Lowry, and Larry Armstrong, Will Nissan Get It Right This Time? After a Decade of Trouble, the Carmaker Is Making Major Changes, Business Week, April 20, 1992, p. 82.

Nissan Earnings Dive 64.3 Percent, Automotive News, June 3, 1991, p. 4.

Sobel, Robert, Car Wars: The Untold Story, New York: Dutton, 1984.

updated by Jeffrey L. Covell

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Nissan Motor Company, Ltd.

Nissan Motor Company, Ltd.

17-1, Ginza, 6-chome
Chuo-Ku, Tokyo
Japan
543-5523

Public Company
Incorporated: 1933
Employees: 59,700
Sales: ¥3439 billion (US$21.6 billion)
Market Value: ¥1446 billion (US$9.086 billion)
Stock Index: Tokyo Osaka Niigata Nagoya Kyoto
Fukuoka Supporo Frankfurt

Established in 1933, Nissan Motor Company was a pioneer in the manufacturing of automobiles. 54 years later, Nissan has become one of the worlds leading automobile manufacturers, with more than 57,000 employees and an annual sales of approximately ¥3,750 billion. In addition to its most popular automobile, called Datsun, Nissan also produces textile machinery, forklifts, marine engines, watercraft, and even the solid-propellant launch vehicles used in Japans space program.

In 1911 Masujiro Hashimoto, an American-trained engineer, founded the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works in Tokyo. Hashimoto dreamed of building the first Japanese automobile, but lacked the capital. In order for his dream to come true, he contacted three men, Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Auyama and Keitaro Takeuchi, for financial support. To acknowledge their contribution to his project Hashimoto named his car DAT, after their last initials. In Japanese, dat means escaping rabbit or running very fast.

The first DAT was marketed and sold as a 10-horsepower runabout. Another version referred to as datson or son of dat, was a two-seater sports car produced in 1918. One year later, Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo Company, another Nissan predecessor, was founded in Osaka. Kwaishinsha and Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo combined in 1926 to establish the Dat Jidosha Seizo Company. Five years later, the Tobata Imaon Company, an automotive parts manufacturer, purchased controlling interest in the company. Tobata Imaons objective was to mass produce products that would be competitive in quality and price with foreign automobiles.

In 1932, Datson became Datsun, thus associating it with the ancient Japanese sun symbol. The manufacturing and sale of Datsun cars was controlled by the Jidosha Seizo Company established in Yokohama through a joint venture between Nihon Sangyo Company and Tobata Imaon. In 1934 the company changed its name to Nissan, and one year later, the operation of Nissans first integrated automobile factory began in Yokohama under the technical guidance of American industrial engineers.

However, Datsun cars were not selling as well as expected in Japan. Major automobile companies of the United States, such as General Motors and the Ford Motor Company, had established assembly plants in Japan during this time. These companies dominated the automobile market in Japan for 10 years. And as a result of the Depression in 1929, foreign companies were discouraged to export to the U.S.

In 1941 World War II began. At this time, Nissans efforts were directed toward military production. During this wartime interlude the Japanese government ordered the motor industry to halt production of passenger cars and produce much-needed trucks.

After World War II, and the complete recreation of the Japanese auto industry, technical assistance contracts were established with foreign firms such as Renault, Hulman, and Willys-Overland. In 1952 Nissan contracted a license with the United Kingdoms Austin Motor Company Ltd. With the help of American technical assistance and improved steel and parts from Japan, Nissan was capable of producing small, efficient cars, which later provided the company with a marketing advantage in the U.S.

The U.S. market was growing, but very gradually. Nonetheless, Nissan felt the U.S. needed low-priced economy cars, perhaps as a second family car. Surveys of the American auto industry encouraged Nissan to display its cars at the Imported Motor Car Show in Los Angeles. The exhibition was noticed by Business Week magazine, but as a staff member wrote in 1957, With over 50 foreign car makers already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isnt likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself.

Nissan sifted through this criticism while struggling to improve domestic sales. Small-scale production resulted in high unit costs and high prices. In fact, a large percentage of Datsun cars were sold to Japanese taxi companies. Yet Kawamata, the companys new and ambitious president, was determined to increase exports to the U.S. Kawamata noted two principal reasons for encouraging exports to the U.S.: Increased sales to the U.S.A. would give Nissan more prestige and credit in the domestic markets as well as other areas and a further price cut is possible through mass producing export cars.

By 1958 Nissan had contracted two U.S. distributors, Woolverton Motors of North Hollywood, California and Chester G. Luby of Forest Hills, New York. Sales did not improve, however, as quickly as Nissan had hoped. As a result, Nissan sent two representatives to the U.S. in order to help increase sales. They were Soichi Kawazoe, an engineer and former employee of GM and Ford, and Yutaka Katayama, an advertising and sales promotion executive. Each identified a need for the development of a new company. They recommended that a U.S. company be established to sell and service Datsuns in America. By 1960 Nissan U.S.A. had 18 employees, 60 dealers and a sales total of 1,640 cars and trucks. Yet it was the success of the Datsun pickup truck in the U.S. market which actually encouraged new dealerships.

Datsun assembly plants were also built in Mexico and Peru during the 1960s. In 1966 Nissan merged with the Prince Motor Company Ltd., and two years later Datsun passenger cars began production in Australia. During the year of 1969 cumulative vehicle exports reached one million units. This was a result of Katayama and Kawazoes efforts to teach Japanese manufacturers to build automobiles comparable to American cars. It meant including mechanical similarities and engine capacities that could keep up with American traffic.

With the introduction of the Datsun 240Z, foreign sports cars made their debut in the American market. Datsun began to receive good reviews from automotive publications in the U.S. and sales began to improve. It was also at this time that the first robotics were installed in Nissan factories to increase production.

After the establishment of specialized aerospace techniques, Japan launched its first satellite on a Nissan rocket in 1970. Only five years later, Nissan export sales reached $5 million. But allegations were made to the effect that Nissan Motor Company in the U.S. was pressuring and restricting its dealers in various ways: requiring them to sell at list prices, limiting their ability to discount, enforcing territorial limitations, according to author John B. Rae. In 1973 Nissan Motor Company U.S.A. agreed to abide by a decree issued from the U.S. Department of Justice that prevented Nissan from engaging in such activities.

The 1970s marked a slump in the Japanese auto industry as a result of the oil crisis. Gasoline prices started to increase and then a number of difficulties arose. President Nixon devalued the dollar and announced an import surcharge; transportation prices went up and export control was lacking. To overcome these problems Nissan U.S.A. brought in Chuck King, a 19 year veteran of the auto industry, to improve management, correct billing errors and minimize transportation damages. As a result, sales continued to increase with the help of Nissans latest model, the Datsun 210 Honeybee, that featured the capability of 41 miles to the gallon of gas.

In 1976 the company began the production of motorboats. During this time, the modification of the Datsun model to American styling also began. These additions included sophisticated detailing, roof racks and air conditioning. New styling of the Datsun automobiles was highlighted with the introduction of the 1980 model 200SX.

The 1980s marked the establishment of production in Italy, Spain, West Germany and the United Kingdom. An aerospace cooperative agreement with Martin Marietta Corporation was also concluded. The Nissan CUE-X and MID4 prototypes were also introduced.

The new generation of Nissan automobiles offers high-performance luxury sedans. They feature electronic control, variable split four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, an intelligent engine, a satellite navigation system, as well as other technological innovations. Clearly, the management of Nissan has made a commitment to increase expenditures for research and development. In 1986 Nissan reported that the companys budget for research and development reached ¥170 billion, or 4.5% of net sales.

Presently, Nissan is in the process of evaluating future consumer trends. From their analysis of consumer trends conducted so far, Nissan expects consumers to prefer a car with high performance, high speed, innovative styling, and versatile options. All of these factors will be taken into account to get a clear image of the car in the environment in which it will be used, says Yukio Miyamori, a director of Nissan. Cultural differences are also considered in this evaluation.

The use of robotics and computer-aided design and manufacturing will also reduce the time required for computations on aerodynamics, combustion, noise and vibration characteristics, enabling Nissan to have an advantage in both the domestic and foreign market. The strategy of Nissans new management is to improve the companys productivity and increase future competitiveness. Currently ranked fourth worldwide in the automotive industry, Nissan will continue to provide intense competition for its rivals Toyota and Honda.

Principal Subsidiaries

Nissan Aichi Machine Industry Co., Ltd.; Atsugi Motor Parts Co., Ltd.; Ikeda Bussan Co., Ltd.; Japan Automatic Transmissions Co., Ltd.; Japan Electronic Control Systems Co., Ltd.; Kanto Seiki Co., Ltd.; Kiriu Machine Mfg. Co., Ltd.; NDC Co., Ltd.; Nihon Radiator Co., Ltd.; Nissan Credit Corp.; Nissan Diesel Motor Co., Ltd.; Nissan Koki Co., Ltd.; Nissan Motor Car Carrier Co., Ltd.; Nissan Motorist Service Co., Ltd.; Nissan Motor Sales Co., Ltd.; Nissan Real Estate Co., Ltd.; Nissan Rikuso Co., Ltd.; Nissan Shatai Co., Ltd.; Nissan Trading Co., Ltd.; Rhythm Motor Parts Mfg. Co., Ltd., Tokyo Sokuhan Co., Ltd.; Tsuchiya Mfg. Co., Ltd.; Yokohama Transportation Co., Ltd. The company also has subsidiaries in the following countries: Australia, Canada, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Further Reading

The Japanese Auto Industry and the U.S. Market by C.S. Chang, New York, Praeger, 1981; Car Wars: The Untold Story by Robert Sobel, New York, Dutton, 1984.

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Nissan Motor Company, Ltd.

Nissan Motor Company, Ltd.

17-1, Ginza 6-chome
Chuo-ku
Tokyo, 104-8023
Japan
Telephone: 81 3 35435523
Fax: 81 3 55652228
Web site: www.nissan-global.com

DO YOU SPEAK MICRA? CAMPAIGN

OVERVIEW

In the late 1990s, after nearly a decade of declining sales, Japan's Nissan Motor Company, Ltd., flirted with bankruptcy. The 1999 arrival of Carlos Ghosn as Nissan's CEO, however, marked the beginning of one of the automotive industry's most striking turnarounds. Within a few years Ghosn moved Nissan out of debt and into a new era of profitability, thanks to dramatic cost-cutting measures and a renewed emphasis on innovation in car design. The European automotive market remained a tough one for Japanese brands, but Nissan was counting on a 2003 redesign of its subcompact Micra model to drive growth across the continent. To announce the redesign, Nissan and its agency, TBWA\G1 Europe, created an integrated advertising campaign called "Do You Speak Micra?" which suggested that the supposedly groundbreaking Micra redesign required the invention of a new descriptive language.

"Do You Speak Micra?" combined TV, cinema, print, outdoor, and online elements, among other assorted marketing platforms, and it spanned 19 European countries and multiple languages, at a price tag of more than 20 million euros. The idea of "speaking Micra" was first circulated by a January 2003 television and cinema spot in which a set of mysteriously disembodied blue lips intoned invented words, such as "modtro" (a combination of "modern" and "retro"), to describe the new Micra. This spot also ran online courtesy of an arrangement between Nissan and Yahoo!, and print and outdoor ads used the same concept and imagery. As the 12-month campaign matured, individual country-specific variants of the "Do You Speak Micra?" message were implemented.

In 2003 Micra sales grew by 70 percent compared to 2002, outperforming Nissan's ambitious precampaign goals. Unaided, spontaneous awareness of the Micra model grew considerably, as did consumers' willingness to consider purchasing a Micra. The campaign won a French EFFIE in 2003 and a bronze Euro EFFIE in 2004 in the automotive category.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

After a production peak in 1989, Japan's Nissan Motor Company saw its sales decline steadily throughout the 1990s, so that by 1999 the automaker was on the verge of bankruptcy. That year, however, France's second-largest automobile manufacturer, Renault, purchased nearly 37 percent of Nissan's public shares and set the Japanese company on the road back to solvency by providing a much-needed infusion of cash and by installing Carlos Ghosn as CEO. Ghosn instituted the Nissan Revival Plan, mandating a return to profitability by 2001, an increase in operating margin (the percentage of revenue remaining after a company had fully paid its production costs but before it paid interest or taxes), and a dramatic reduction of its debt load in the coming years. Ghosn was able to meet these benchmarks ahead of schedule, thanks to measures that included an aggressive diet of job cuts and a streamlining of the company's supply chain. By early 2002 Nissan had officially recovered from its near-death experience and could focus again on future growth. At the same time Renault increased its Nissan holdings to 44 percent, paving the way for an increasingly vital partnership.

In the European market Nissan was particularly counting on a 2003 update of its subcompact-class Micra, which had not been redesigned since 1992. Not only did the Micra redesign offer aesthetic value and new technological features, but it was also priced lower than the Micra had been in previous years. Nissan was able to offer the Micra at a lower price partly because of its alliance with Renault—the new Micra and a Japanese version of the same car, the March, shared a chassis codesigned by Nissan and Renault, which allowed the companies to purchase parts in greater volume at substantial savings—and partly because Nissan changed its parts-buying patterns for the Micra, purchasing outside of the United Kingdom (where the Micra was built) when necessary in order to cope with fluctuating exchange rates.

Historically, Europeans had been much more hesitant to embrace Japanese auto brands than Americans had, vastly preferring cars produced in Europe. As of 2002 Japanese brands accounted for only 11.5 percent of the 15 million cars sold annually in Europe; in contrast, 30 percent of autos sold in the United States were Japanese.

TARGET MARKET

"Do You Speak Micra?" targeted European professionals between the ages of 25 and 34 and with moderate to high incomes. The small size of the Micra made it a selection that was most natural for those who did not yet have children and for those who lived in urban areas. The campaign ran in Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Nissan and TBWA set campaign goals of generating a 2003 Micra sales increase of 60 percent compared to 2002, which necessitated an appeal that would draw consumers who were previously loyal to other automotive brands. Additionally, Nissan hoped to establish an iconic, enduring market presence for the Micra among young people. Although the Micra had an established reputation in Europe, TBWA and Nissan used the dramatic redesign as an opportunity to relaunch the model and imbue it with a new, captivating personality. The campaign's various executions were accordingly bold, positing the idea that an effective description of the radically redesigned Micra required the invention of a new language.

COMPETITION

Among Europeans, Japanese cars historically had a reputation for lackluster styling and handling, and as of 2000, according to BusinessWeek, Toyota alone had managed to crack this stereotype. The model with which Toyota had done so, the Yaris, was a subcompact positioned directly against the Micra. Designed with European tastes in mind, the Yaris's "distinctive grill and curvaceous dashboard," as BusinessWeek put it, displayed "the sort of pizzazz Europeans expect from Volkswagen, Fiat, or Renault." The Yaris was the best-selling Japanese car in Europe, and among Japanese automakers in Europe, Toyota was the top seller by a comfortable margin, with 800,000 vehicles sold in 2002, a far cry from the 470,000 that second-place Nissan sold in Europe that year. Toyota's sales grew by 14 percent in Europe in 2002, even though the European automobile market as a whole was down 4 percent. Sales were again down industry-wide in Europe in 2003, but that year Toyota sales increased by more than 10 percent. By early April 2004 Toyota's market share in Europe was 5.4 percent, greater than that of such stalwart European brands as Audi and BMW and approaching that of the Italian carmaker Fiat.

CORPORATE HERO

Carlos Ghosn, the CEO who orchestrated Nissan's dramatic turnaround beginning in 1999, became a folk hero of sorts in Japan because of what he did for the company. "The Japanese public sees in Nissan a company that is representative of problems that many Japanese corporations face," Ghosn told Forbes. "The fact of turning Nissan around in a clear, neat way is a strong message of hope in Japanese society. People stop me in the street and say gambatte [go for it!] and wish me luck."

Honda Motor Company was the third-best-selling Japanese brand in Europe. Although it had been losing market share regularly since the late 1990s, Honda rallied in 2002. The recent introduction of a redesigned Civic hatchback and a new subcompact, the Jazz, drove a European sales increase of 17 percent that year. The Jazz, positioned to compete with the Micra and the Yaris for young consumers, was Honda's first subcompact car to be sold in Europe since the discontinuation of the Logo in the 1990s, and it represented Honda's most promising appeal to younger Europeans in recent memory.

Foremost among European subcompacts was the Volkswagen Golf. The Golf accounted for 15 percent of all cars manufactured by Volkswagen, but Golf sales were in decline worldwide and in Europe. The first new Golf redesign in seven years was unveiled in late 2003, threatening the renewed strength of the Micra's market positioning in the wake of the "Do You Speak Micra?" campaign. Golf sales in 2004 did not meet Volkswagen's expectations, however, forcing the company to offer incentive programs that undercut its profits. In light of the increasing European success of Japanese brands such as Toyota and Nissan, many analysts saw Volkswagen's difficulties as symptomatic of a larger shift in the European automotive market.

MARKETING STRATEGY

"Do You Speak Micra?" was created by TBWA\G1 Europe and then adapted by various European branches of the TBWA Worldwide network, depending on the country and language used, as the campaign evolved over its January-December 2003 run. TV, cinema, outdoor, print, online, and interactive placements were used to build consistent mainstream awareness across the campaign's geographic range, and supplementary executions were developed according to each country's individual demands. The campaign's total budget was in excess of 20 million euros.

The campaign was defined by suitably unordinary imagery, most prominently a single striking image of surreally disembodied, shiny, blue, female lips. This image was introduced in a TV and cinema commercial directed by the famously offbeat American film director David Lynch, known for cult classics such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet and the TV series Twin Peaks. The English-language version of the spot showed the glistening blue lips hovering mysteriously over a noir-inflected nighttime cityscape, intoning the words "modtro," "simpology," and "spafe" against visuals of the redesigned Micra in motion on the streets below. After the lips pronounced each word, onscreen text informed viewers of its meaning: "modtro" was a combination of "modern" and "retro," "simpology" an amalgamation of "simple" and "technology," and "spafe" a fusion of "spontaneous" and "safe." Although the imagery remained consistent in non-English-language versions of the spot, the neologisms and their root words varied depending on the language used. The spot concluded with the paired images of the blue lips and the new Micra, as the lips asked, "Do you speak Micra?"

Print and outdoor ads recycled the image of the lips as well as images of the Micra itself, and each ad typically focused on one particular neologism. Nissan also partnered prominently with the online company Yahoo! to extend the buzz surrounding the TV and cinema spots, presenting the Lynch-directed commercial for online viewing at the Yahoo! music channel LAUNCH (http://launch.yahoo.com). Free Micra-related gifts were also offered to those Yahoo! users who, having previously opted to receive promotional information from the company, responded to an E-mail offer to test-drive the new Micra.

Country-specific advertisements included a print series in France that was more explicitly geared toward female members of the target market. One such ad showed images of the new Micra paired, according to color, in mathematical equations with images of various outfits of female clothing; each combination of Micra color and outfit was said to equal one of the French neologisms used in the campaign. For instance, a dark-gray Micra, when paired with a red halter top, black jeans, and high heels, was said to equal "aggressuelle," a combination of the French words for "aggressive" and "sensual." One of the more noteworthy U.K.-specific elements of the campaign was a guerilla effort targeting those who drove competitors' cars. Informational packets about the Micra, including a reply mailing to request a test drive as well as a questionnaire to be returned for a chance to win a free vacation, were attached to the side mirrors of parked cars manufactured by Nissan's competitors.

OUTCOME

Nissan surpassed its precampaign goal of increasing Micra sales in 2003 by 60 percent over the preceding year; the 2003 sales increase reached 70 percent in Europe. Micra sales accounted for 42 percent of Nissan's total European sales that year, and Micra's market share in the small-car segment increased by 62 percent during the campaign's run. The campaign also substantially increased awareness of the model. According to a tracking study, spontaneous awareness of the Micra model increased by 69 percent as a result of the relaunch campaign, and the number of consumers willing to consider purchasing a Micra increased by 88 percent. The campaign won a 2003 EFFIE Award in France and a bronze 2004 Euro EFFIE. The Euro EFFIEs were the European counterpart to the prestigious EFFIE Awards that were sponsored by the New York American Marketing Association.

Despite the fact that European auto sales were down overall, 2003 was a growth year for Nissan as well as other Japanese brands in Europe. By the end of 2004 Europe's resistance to Japanese cars began to seem a relic of history, as Nissan and Toyota, among other Asian automakers, continued to increase their market shares at the expense of their European counterparts.

FURTHER READING

"David Lynch Speaks Micra." Carpages, January 8, 2003. Available from 〈http://www.carpages.Companyuk/nissan/nissan_david_lynch_speaks_micra_part_1_08_01_03.asp〉

Dawson, Chester, Christine Tierney, and Anna Bawden. "A Pileup in Europe for Japan's Carmakers." BusinessWeek, December 18, 2000.

Diem, William. "Supplier Switch Saves Nissan $1,800 on Micra." Ward's Auto World, January 2003.

Fulford, Benjamin. "Gambatte!" Forbes, July 22, 2002.

"Nissan Launches 'Intriguing' Micra Campaign to Lure Younger Drivers." Precision Marketing, June 20, 2003.

"Nissan Turns a 180." Ward's Auto World, February 2002.

Sweney, Mark. "David Lynch Directs TV Spots for Nissan Micra." Campaign, January 17, 2003.

Tierney, Christine, and Chester Dawson. "Negotiating Europe's Curves." BusinessWeek, December 16, 2002.

Treece, James B. "Nissan Ends Era of Revival." Automotive News, February 11, 2002.

Wentz, Laurel. "Lynch Directs Micra Teaser." Advertising Age, January 13, 2003.

                                                Mark Lane

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