|Fumiaki Matsumoto: Guangzhou is the Center of All Functions|
|Foreigners in China|
With his passion and adventurousness in career, Fumiaki Matsumoto, Managing Director of Dongfeng Nissan, makes himself the best spokesman of the auto giant, which has an annual production capacity of one million units.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding in Guangzhou, Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle Co. (Dongfeng Nissan) rolled out its 4.5 millionth vehicle in the city on June 16.
With an area of about three million square meters, the headquarters of Dongfeng Nissan is located in Guangzhou's Huadu District, which is well-known as an auto manufacturing hub.
Fumiaki Matsumoto, 54, has been taking the helm of the motor giant since April 2010 as Managing Director; he's also the Vice President of Dongfeng Motor Co., Ltd. (DFL), a joint venture between China's Dongfeng Motor Group and Japan's Nissan Motor Company Ltd. Prior to joining DFL, Matsumoto was Managing Director of Nissan Motor Iberica, SA. Spain. He joined Nissan in 1981 after getting a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from the University of Tokyo.
As the passenger vehicle division of DFL, Dongfeng Nissan was founded in Guangzhou in 2003. "It was where our partner - Aeolus Automobile Company (one of Dongfeng Motor Group's subsidiaries) was based, and it knew how to produce Nissan vehicles," Matsumoto explains. "That's why we came here." Aeolus Automobile was reorganized as a part of Dongfeng Nissan when it was founded. "We also have terrific backups here," the Managing Director continues. "We have all kinds of suppliers in the area, we have received strong support from the local government – preparing lands for the plants but also suppliers, helping to relocate the employees… and the most convenient logistic network is one of the biggest advantages [to locating here]."
Although it was not until 2010 that Matsumoto began to lead Dongfeng Nissan, the Nissan veteran visited Guangzhou as early as 2003 when he helped to prepare the construction of the company's first plant, which began operation in 2004. Matsumoto says the huge changes he's seen in the city over the past decade has really surprised him.
"Ten years ago, before we came here, there was nothing, only big wide roads and empty areas," he recalls. "The development here is really speedy." But it is the learning capability of his Chinese staff that has impressed him most. "Nissan has been building plants around the world, and the Guangzhou plant has the highest efficiency compared with the rest of them globally," he relates. The boss of 16,000 employees credits that efficiency to the fast-learning Chinese crew, who constitutes the majority of the workforce at the plant: "Of course, we've brought in Japanese skills and experience, but most of the projects are led by the people here," he says.
When the company's second plant in Huadu was finished and put into operation last year, Guangzhou became Nissan's biggest manufacturing base in the world with an annual production capacity of 670,000 units. Together with its Zhengzhou and Xiangyang plants in central China, Dongfeng Nissan's total production capacity was one million units in 2012. The company's fourth plant in the country broke ground in northeast China's Dalian last June. It is designed to have an annual output capacity of 150,000 units and is expected to start operation in 2014.
Dongfeng Nissan is not only "made in China," but also "sells in China." According to its official data, the company's annual sales volume has risen from 65,000 units in 2003 to more than 773,000 units in 2012. "It is not only growing, but also jumping," Matsumoto says with a smile.
But not every marriage is sweet at the very beginning and in the case of Dongfeng Nissan, the division of China's biggest automotive joint venture, there was bitterness during the honeymoon period as "there were difficulties in understanding each other at the very beginning," Matsumoto says. That could explain the reason for a setback in the sales volume in 2004, the second year following the company's founding, even though it was laying out new models and the Chinese market was growing.
"It is a 50-50 joint venture," Matsumoto explains, "and the corporate cultures are different in the two companies."
It took one year for the two sides to discuss and iron out the corporate rules, and things turned out very well, as its sales volume doubled in 2005 to 158,000 units.
Dongfeng Nissan's Chinese customer-oriented strategy has also helped to establish itself as the most popular Japanese brand in the country. "We not only produce and sell here, we also develop and design here, to make our products meet specific market needs," Matsumoto reveals. In 2010, the passenger vehicle arm unveiled its first proprietary brand, "Venucia," or "Qi Chen" in Chinese. It is a motor venture brand designed by Chinese in China.
Representing one quarter of Nissan's total global sales, China is now the largest single market for Nissan, the second-largest automotive company in Japan, according to news reports. Matsumoto confirms his confidence in the Chinese market, and he's also optimistic about the luxury auto market in the world's second largest economy, as Dongfeng Nissan will put Infiniti, a luxury brand of Nissan, onto its assemble line in 2014.
Dongfeng Nissan is also a pioneer in zero-emission mobility as the company had inked a zero emission partnership with the Guangzhou government as early as 2009. "The Huadu government has bought 21 zero-emission cars from us… and our zero-emission taxis are in a pilot program now," Matsumoto says.
Born in Kagoshima Prefecture at the southwestern tip of the island of Kyushu in Japan, and having spent years in Europe for his managing tenure for Nissan, Matsumoto enjoys his life in Guangzhou. He describes it as a "foreigner-friendly" city, and "easy to live here, especially for Japanese." The busy traveller also says that he finds the local people are more open-minded to people with different backgrounds than those in the rest of the country, "just like the people in Spain… I like the people here," he comments.
Having served Nissan for over 32 years, Matsumoto is still passionate about his career, and it doesn't look like he has any intention to retire in the near future. "It is interesting working here as there are always challenges coming," he says. "I love challenges." He clearly has made himself the best spokesperson of the Dongfeng Nissan's corporate motto - "Enjoy your work; enjoy your life and then develop yourself."
As the Deputy Chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Guangzhou, which has some 200 Japanese member companies, Matsumoto also notices the difference between his host city and its manufacturing neighbors. "Most of the Japanese manufacturing operations in those cities like Dongguan or Shenzhen are mainly for export, but in Guangzhou, we design, develop, produce, project and even sell here," Matsumoto says. "Guangzhou is the center of all functions."