June 29, 2011

Nissan Recovery Stories -Tohoku Dealership Part 1-

Nissan Global Media Center interviewed Masaki Kobayashi, President of Nissan Prince Miyagi

Q1. Where were you at the time of the earthquake?

A1.

I was attending a dealers meeting at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama. The hall was shaking and everybody was using cell phones to watch TV coverage of what was unfolding. I tried to contact my company in Miyagi, but the cell phone didn’t work. Instead, I went to Yokohama station and waited in line to use a payphone, but still I couldn’t make a call. I spent a night in Yokohama, which wasn’t really affected, as I couldn’t go back home that day, but I was more concerned about how the situation was in Miyagi. I managed to get there by March 13, two days after the quake, by flying to Yamagata and then renting a car and driving to Miyagi.

Q2. How was your company affected by the earthquake?

A2.

We suffered severe damage inland, but the coastal area was especially hard hit because of the tsunami. Among our 26 dealerships and used-car centers, 5 dealer outlets and 2 used-car centers were seriously damaged. The outlets by the sea were nearly destroyed after being completely engulfed by the tsunami. Our headquarters, while located further inland, was also badly affected and almost all our facilities experienced upheaval. We planned to restore the coastal facilities first and then inland sites where there was less damage. However, we and our customers ran out of gasoline and couldn’t move for two weeks. It became very important to direct all company resources in the same direction.

Q3. After the earthquake, what kind of support did you provide for customers?

A3.

Our facilities hit by the tsunami were completely covered in sludge. We needed to restore them to a state where they could conduct business, even temporarily. We tried to transmit information to customers using cell phones while our employees worked to restore our facilities. Many staff from other dealerships further inland helped us remove the sludge from the worst affected buildings. Thanks to that, we could offer customers basic services within a week of the quake, or two weeks at the latest. After checking our customers were safe, we asked them whether they had problems using their vehicles. Since many cars were swept away by the tsunami, customers needed means of transportation as soon as possible. We tried to obtain as many vehicles as we could, receiving help from Nissan all over the company.

Q4. What’s your opinion of your employees following the tragedy?

A4.

I had been working with them for more than two years and thought of them as strong, hardworking and persistent in their work. After the last few months, I have great respect for them. I’m fortunate to work with them—I almost cry when I talk about it.

Q5. What have you said to them about the recovery from the quake?

A5.

I’ve asked my staff to think positively about finding advantages in spite of what we suffered during this awful disaster. Let’s make the whole company, including the most seriously damaged facilities, return even better than they were before. This is our motto.