2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 15:44
Rainer Landwehr sees Nissan on the right track despite a dent in sales. In an interview with Autogazette, the managing director of Nissan Center Europe reveals why the brand will soon be making positive headlines again.
The Japanese car maker Nissan had to accept a sales loss of 31.8 percent in the first quarter of 2007. Nevertheless, Rainer Landwehr is convinced that the company can look to the future without worries. “The automotive industry is currently no place to relax. But compared to other manufacturers, I would clearly see Nissan on the winning side,”said the managing director of Nissan Center Europe of Autogazette.
Although Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn spoke of a pothole that Nissan got into, Landwehr is confident: “The pothole is - if at all - very small and from the point of view of our top employer there is. On the whole, the company is doing really well."
The successful launch of the Nissan Qashqai and the reorganization of the dealer network that Nissan has been restructuring since last year spreads optimism. In addition, Nissan is working with alliance partner Renault on alternative drive solutions for the future. "The alternative drive technology is being promoted together, the question then is: who will be awarded the contract first?" Says Landwehr.
Many private customers
Autogazette: Mr. Landwehr, is it actually fun to be the managing director of Nissan Center Europe at the moment ?
Rainer Landwehr (laughs): It's always fun to be a managing director. It is certainly a challenging time right now. A lot is currently being implemented and launched. Basically, however, you have to have fun and enjoy yourself.
Autogazette: Nisann records massive break-ins. In Germany, sales fell by 31.8 percent compared to the first quarter of the previous year …
Landwehr: … there are a number of reasons. One reason is based on the market itself. I would like to mention the early purchases made in the last quarter of 2006 because of the increase in VAT from January 2007. Private customers in particular took advantage of this, not business customers. But since we have so many private customers at Nissan, the classic mechanism has kicked in.
Autogazette: But the increase in VAT alone cannot explain this slump?
Landwehr:There are also homemade depths, of which I would like to mention two: On the one hand, our realignment and reorientation of the dealer network. We took around 200 locations offline in February. This is a process that cannot be completed in a month, but takes a long time. On the other hand, we have standardized all computer systems in Europe, which has also caused a few problems.
Restructuring of the dealer network
Autogazette: What should your dealer network look like in the future?
Landwehr: We have a very clear plan. After the termination that we issued twelve months ago, we lost 200 locations. However, we have already installed 80 new dealers and will open 80 new locations this year, so that we will again reach 200 in the first quarter of 2008, albeit with a different quality.
Autogazette: Carlos Ghosn said Nissan drove into a pothole but wasn't in the ditch yet? How deep is Nissan in the pothole?
Landwehr:The company is still one of the really good companies worldwide with a return on sales of seven percent and several billion euros in profit. One cannot really speak of a crisis here. The pothole is very small - if at all - and from the point of view of our top employer it is there. By and large, the company is doing really well.
Clearly on the winning side
Autogazette: Does that mean you don't share the view of your top employer at all?
Landwehr: It is very clear that business is not easy. The automotive industry is currently no place to rest. But compared to other manufacturers, I would clearly see Nissan on the winning side.
Autogazette: Critical voices say Carlos Ghosn neglected Nissan a little. Do you see the dual role of Carlos Ghosn as beneficial or rather as a hindrance?
Landwehr:: It is an interesting and good combination because there is one person who leads two global companies. That sounds presumptuous at first, but there are operational managers on each side who independently manage the day-to-day business for the two brands. Carlos Ghosn acts as a link between the two brands and tries to create as many synergies as possible.
Beginning through Qashqai
Autogazette: 33 new models have been announced for the next three years. Is that enough on its own to initiate the turnaround?
Landwehr: We assume so. In Germany and Europe we will get a whole range of new products. The Qashqai started, the X-Trail is coming. We are in a very positive mood.
Autogazette: Can you describe the positive aspect ? You have to come out with a car that stands out from the crowd …
Landwehr: … I have the justified hope that the Qashqai has the potential to be a great car. It got off to an extremely good start in Germany and Europe. We are very pleasantly surprised. We have received around 12,000 orders in Germany so far, and more than 60,000 orders have been placed across Europe. That is very, very much for our standards and for the short period of time.
Autogazette: 12,000 orders, but you only sold 2,300 in the first quarter …
Landwehr: … we have too many vehicle orders. We have to build first.
Considerations for the cheap car
Autogazette: At Renault, the Logan in particular has become a hit. Nissan is also considering a cheap car. How far have these plans progressed?
Landwehr: A company the size of Nissan has to look at all segments. There are considerations that many other manufacturers are probably also making as to whether it is worth going into the lowest price segment. I can't comment on that more specifically.
Autogazette: There was talk of a “Mexican solution”, that is, a Nissan logo is simply mounted on the Logan - as in Mexico - and then it goes off. Can this be transferred to Europe?
Landwehr:It goes without saying that the market segments will be scanned carefully to see if there is a place for Nissan. I can't say what exactly that looks like.
Hybrid most likely to be marketed
Autogazette: In America there are already Nissan vehicles with hybrid drives, in Europe these models are missing…
Landwehr: … Nissan is using a two-stage strategy. On the one hand, we are trying to optimize a lot of the drive technology. Every Nissan comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission, which leads to reductions in CO2 emissions of between six and eight percent. Of course we will also come with hybrid vehicles, not immediately, but in two or three years.
Autogazette: Has the road to the fuel cell with hybrid drive been mapped out for you, or do you have other solutions?
Landwehr:There are of course several options. Hybrid technology is the one that is most likely to be marketed because the infrastructure is there. We don't have to have separate gas stations. There is also hydrogen technology, a very important topic that Nissan is working on. The problem here is marketability.
Autogazette: Renault recently presented numerous alternative drive solutions in a so-called environmental atelier. Will Nissan be able to use the French alliance partner?
Landwehr (laughs):It could well be that Renault also used us. You never really know that in an alliance. But that's a classic example in which the alliance works together. The alternative drive technology is being promoted together, the question then is: who will be awarded the contract first?
The interview with Rainer Landwehr was conducted by Thomas Flehmer