Saturday August 4, 2012
Up close & personal with Takashi Yamanouchi
By WONG WEI-SHEN
AT the base of every company lies an essential ingredient human resources. Without people, no company would be able to function. Implementation of strategies and running of the company would not be possible.
Mazda Motor Corp representative director, president and chief executive officer Takashi Yamanouchi believes that investing in people is important and aims to build a company that employs people who enjoy their work.
“In my career, I've spent nine years on human resources development. Throughout that period, I truly felt the company is made of people and we need to ensure they are constantly motivated and their capabilities are developed,” he says.
Mazda has implemented training programmes based on the seven Mazda Way principles, which is shared with the entire Mazda group worldwide. In 2008, the company summarised seven basic principles and values that were handed down from its predecessors.
The seven principles integrity, basic and flawless execution, continuous kaizen (improvement), challenger spirit, self initiative, tomoiku (mutual learning) and one Mazda are instilled into employees of Mazda to be sincere, faithful to the basics, to have a challenging spirit, to mutually develop others as well as yourself, among others.
“We use the seven Mazda Way principles as guiding principles for general conduct,” Yamanouchi says.
Loyal to Mazda
For someone who has been with the company for more than four decades, Yamanouchi clearly has adopted the Mazda Way and is full of energy and excitement for what the future holds for Mazda. Joining the company in April 1967, which was then called Toyo Kogyo Co Ltd, he has been involved in a variety of roles, slowly climbing up the ranks to be where he is right now.
“In my 20s I worked for Japan's marketing and sales division. Then in my 30s I was dispatched to several dealerships in Japan to learn the retail side of the business. In my 40s after I completed my business management studies in the United States, I decided to change from the sales division to corporate planning. Then in my 50s, I was appointed as a corporate officer responsible for corporate planning, financial management, purchasing, human resource development and others,” he says.
Yamanouchi jokes: “I've been here too long.”
For a man who has been in Mazda for 45 years and since the start of his career, Yamanouchi leads a well-balanced work and family life. Having raised two children, and now a grandfather to four grandchildren, Yamanouchi continues to look up to his late father for inspiration.
“My father raised six children and took care of my mother after the war. He faced many difficulties but he still managed to support the family. Although he has passed away, at the age of 97, his memory is precious to me and my family,” he says.
Yamanouchi continues to instill positive thinking in his four grandchildren aged between four and 11 years. He enjoys reading many books and golfing. “My handicap for golf was 19... many, many years ago,” he laughs.
On Nov 19, 2008, Yamanouchi was appointed representative director, president and CEO of Mazda. At the time, the US sub prime mortgage crisis had escalated, which then led to the current global economic crisis.
Yamanouchi says he has faced many challenges in each of the role he played in the company. “In each stage of my life, I have been assigned good jobs that were in line with my abilities and knowledge,” he says.
However, he feels the role he currently holds in the company bears the most responsibility. “I became president immediately after the Lehman Brothers' collapse. Since that time, two US manufacturers have failed and Japanese manufacturers have all been struggling too. It has been a very trying time,” Yamanouchi says.
He notes that there have been two major shifts in global trends since the global financial crisis.
The first of which is a very strong yen. “In that period, compared with the US dollar, the yen appreciated about 30%. Compared with the euro, the yen appreciated 36% to 37%, which is quite unbelievable,” he says.
To build a company structure resistant to such appreciation and extreme fluctuation in foreign currency, Mazda has been looking to expand its overseas production as well as increasing the proportion of purchases of car parts denominated in foreign currencies.
Secondly, Yamanouchi believes the market is shifting its focus from advanced countries to the emerging markets. He says that in the past, Mazda's business has been 70% in advanced countries and 30% in emerging markets.
“In order to change the ratio to 50% each between the advance and emerging markets, we are strengthening our presence in Asean and also in Malaysia,” he says.
Striving through difficult times
Mazda was no doubt affected by the earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand last year. The company also suffered from the global economic slowdown coupled with the strong yen.
However, despite those events, Mazda via local franchise and distributorship Bermaz Motor Sdn Bhd managed to sell 6,000 units in Malaysia. In June, the Mazda CX-5 model which is a crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV) that has implemented the Skyactiv technology was introduced. Within the first month of it launch in the country, 1,400 orders were made for the CX-5 model.
Mazda's Skyactiv technology features a range of breakthrough technologies that improves driving pleasure and also improves environmental and safety performance.
Yamanouchi says he is happy with the progress of Mazda sales in Malaysia.
Globally, the new model has reached sales of at least 160,000 units. “This month we plan to increase the capacity to 200,000. Next year, we plan to increase the capacity to 240,000 units. We will be increasing the capacity by 50% over what we initially planned,” Yamanouchi says.
To meet additional demand, Mazda is in talks with Bermaz to start local production of the CX-5. “We are studying to produce this vehicle in Malaysia, specially for the Malaysian market. We currently have a partnership with Inokom Corp Sdn Bhd in Kulim, which is where the Mazda 3 cars are assembled. So, it would make sense to have the production facility for the CX-5 in the same plant,” he says.
He adds that plans call for the production of 3,000 to 5,000 units per year for the CX5 from the proposed joint venture. “As we have already seen local orders of 1,400 in the first month, 3,000 units is actually not that ambitious,” he says.
The joint venture has planned for an early 2013 start.
Yamanouchi is encouraged by the sales that Bermaz managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Ben Yeoh has brought in so far. “We aim for Ben to achieve at least 9,000 units in sales this year,” he smiles. He plans to increase this amount to 20,000 units in the future.
Mazda's market share in the Asean region currently stands at 2.5%. “We are looking to increase it to about 4.7% within the next five years. We want to grow our market share in this region, and also globally,” Yamanouchi says.
Although the numbers are important, he feels what is even more important is to maintain good customer satisfaction. “This is so we can establish a unique brand in order to achieve growth,” he says.
Mazda has been present in Malaysia through Bermaz for the past four years.
The new showroom and headquarters in Shah Alam was built to reflect Mazda's unique brand image and Yamanouchi came for the launch of the 130,000 sq ft facility in mid-July. “We prioritise our customers' needs and wants. At the same time we do what we do best to offer our customers nothing less than the best and what we have here today is our promise to our customers: the best showroom,” he says.
The four-storey multi-million ringgit facility is the largest Mazda showroom in South-East Asia, with two levels of car display areas and a service centre. “Ben is working hard in achieving a differentiating way for providing customer satisfaction for Mazda,” he says. “At the end of the day, it is the people who can propel the company to greater heights.”
BORN: Jan 10, 1945
PERSONAL: Married with two children and four granchildren
HIGHEST QUALIFICATION: Bachelor of Commerce and Marketing
CAREER: President and chief executive officer of Mazda Motor Corp
NOTEWORTHY: Leads a well-balanced work and family life
FAVOURITE FOOD: Spicy asian food, in particular Malaysian and Thai food
FAVOURITE PLACE: Asia
HOBBY: Reading, golfing
VALUES: Always think positively