June 29, 2011

Nissan Recovery Stories -Tohoku Dealership Part 2-

Nissan Global Media Center interviewed Hiroyuki Sato, Shop Manager of Nissan Prince Miyagi

Q1. Where were you at the time of the earthquake on March 11?


I had taken a day off to take my mother to the hospital. I was in Onagawa in Miyagi prefecture when the quake hit.

Q2. The company reported you as missing for several days. How soon could you contact friends and colleagues?


It took me five or six days before I was able to contact the company. I saw the tsunami with my own eyes from Onagawa, which is by the coast, and the roads were covered with debris and impassable. I spent a night in the car with my mother and son that day. The police and people nearby said the Watanoha area in Ishinomaki where I live had been completely destroyed and that we couldn’t go back there. Still, I finally returned to my house two days later. By that time, the Self-Defense Forces had partly cleared the way, so I could get halfway using my son’s car and spent a day at home. I hadn’t been able to contact my daughter so I decided to go to Misato, a town 50km (31 miles) away from Ishinomaki, to search. We ran short of gasoline on the way and I had to walk for a few hours and hitchhike to get there. It was on the fourth or the fifth day that I discovered my daughter was okay and I could confirm the safety of my whole family. As my mobile phone was now working again, I called my boss. His response was: "You're alive. What good news!" I apologized for worrying others and contacted the president of the dealer and other executives to tell them I had survived.

Q3. The dealership was severely damaged and you’re now operating at a temporary location. How is it?


We always have a few employees standing outside the front of the outlet so customers can clearly see that we are open. It’s important is to greet our customers, to let them sit down, prepare them a drink, chat and make them feel safe. It’s also important for our staff to feel secure. As aftershocks still occur frequently, I tell them to get away over the intercom each time one occurs. Nobody knows when we will be hit by another big earthquake and it’s still dangerous. I take responsibility for the safety and comfort of customers and my employees.

Q4. Three months have passed since the earthquake. How have employees reacted?


It’s really tough to work in this situation. It’s noisy, it’s smoky and it smells bad in our temporary office as it’s inside the service shop. We’ve combined the new-vehicle and used-vehicle operations and the two groups communicate much more than they did before the quake. We want to continue this. We also asked to keep this layout for when we open our new showroom that’s under construction to be opened in mid-June. Everyone is working hard.

There are other outlets that were more seriously hit by the tsunami. They seem to have had a harder time than us and I think they have done a great job. I visited the Ishinomaki port branch that’s close to my house. It was terrible, but the employees there cleaned up and said that that damage to other outlets in Ishinomaki and Kesennuma was worse. I was really impressed by their attitude.

Q5. What do you think do customers want now?


I’m from Ishinomaki and what’s needed most is cars. You can see it if you come. People are walking and riding bicycles or using cars that hardly run. In this situation, as dealers, what we can do is provide vehicles.

We’re trying to raise the assessed value of used cars as much as possible and asking customers to send cars to the most-affected areas. People need cars that may only last for one to two years and are priced at 300,000 yen to 400,000 yen. This is not what the manager of the new car dealer should say, but we recommend our customers take used vehicles rather than new ones. New cars are too good to be used there given the road conditions. I’m sure they will buy new vehicles when things calm down. For now, though, we’re now trying to collect used vehicles and will sell them at a lower price.