New Denso Europe boss' bold vision might propel him to the top

Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.
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Editor's note: The year when Denso Europe is expected to reach its new CEO's sales goal is 2020. The date was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

Yoshikazu Makino has been Denso Europe CEO for a little more than three months but he's already got big plans for the supplier's business here: He wants to double the division's sales to 6.8 billion euros by 2020.

If he succeeds, it is likely that he will have a quick climb up the corporate ladder at the world's second-largest supplier after Robert Bosch.

During our recent talk, Makino cautioned that the sales goal is not an official company directive. It's simply his vision. We'll see if his bosses at headquarters in Kariya, Japan, will follow along.

Makino's boldness is refreshing. Very few executives running European subsidiaries of Asian companies are allowed do or say anything without the blessing of HQ.

Makino said he plans to reach his 2020 target by increasing efficiency at the supplier's European factories, maximizing the potential of his existing staff, finding additional talented people to join the company (Denso's stand at the Frankfurt auto show was transformed into a recruitment center as soon as the press days ended Sept. 14) and encouraging his team to think global.

Makino is not the first Denso Europe boss to announce a bold sales goal. Under the leadership of former division CEO Nobuaki Katoh, the company said in 2005 that it wanted to be a top five supplier in Europe within five years. In October 2006, Katoh lowered the target to reaching the top 10 by 2011.

The supplier of powertrain, electronic and thermal parts never got close to the original goal, peaking at No. 12 based on 2007 financial results. It finished 2010 ranked 13th in Europe, according to data gathered by the Automotive News Europe data center. Given the challenges it has faced following the March 11 earthquake in Japan, it seems unlike Denso will reach the top 10 in Europe this year.

While Katoh's goal probably won't be reached, that has not slowed him down professionally. He was promoted to CEO of Denso Corp. in 2008, taking the post a year after leaving Europe.

Perhaps Makino will follow the same path. The 33-year company veteran has an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as experience working in the United States, Thailand, Japan and now Europe.

Unlike his predecessors, the 56-year-old executive seems even more determined to forge a stronger link between Denso's European team and its affiliates around the world.

Having a global view and the courage to announce tough targets can't hurt Makino's chances of one day rising to the top at Denso.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at

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