Exec pushes regions to control costs, launch vehicles flawlessly

Mann trots the globe keeping Nissan on track

Exec pushes regions to control costs, launch vehicles flawlessly

Trevor Mann oversees cost control and product launches.
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NASHVILLE -- Trevor Mann travels the world to make sure Nissan's regional companies meet their targets on cost control and product launches.

Last month, he went to Nissan's expanding operations in China, then to Southeast Asia, and just recently to the United States, Canada and Brazil. And June has him jetting from Japan to Europe to Africa to the Middle East to India.

And every quarter he will do it all over again as Nissan reaches for an 8 percent global operating-profit margin.

This is the life of Mann, the former Nissan factory manager from northern England who became Nissan's chief performance officer in January. Mann, 53, is based in Yokohama.

"It sounds tough, but it's doable," he says during his pass through Nashville, where he spent most of a week with Nissan's North American chairman, Jose Munoz.

North America has been on a roll this year, increasing sales, market share and profits. But Mann's task is to make sure nothing goes wrong.

His "chief" role makes him part of a high-level Nissan group, including Chief Planning Officer Andy Palmer and Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura, tasked with chief operating officer-level functions.

"I'm charged with making sure the regions deliver what they said they would, and making sure we have a level of discipline in our operations," Mann says.

"My job is not to do the regional executives' job. It's to support them when necessary, to understand the difficulties they're having and decide whether we need to mobilize more global resources to help with an issue."

The two biggest issues of the moment are holding down costs and making sure vehicles launch flawlessly, Mann says.

Two years ago, Nissan was slowed by launch problems on the redesigned Altima.

Early this year, Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tenn., launched production of a redesigned Rogue crossover. Mann says that startup went so well it is now Nissan's benchmark for future launches. Coming this fall will be the redesigned Murano, to be built in Canton, Miss., for the first time.

Nissan's U.S. team also is preparing for new-generation versions of the Maxima sedan and Titan pickup next year.

"We're making sure we're preparing for them properly," Mann says.

Nissan has a group of experts standing by in Smyrna to support the Murano launch teams in Mississippi. Mann says managers from the United Kingdom and Japan have been moved to Smyrna to "make sure we put all things together properly."

In March, Nissan moved quality engineer Colin McVay from Nissan Europe, where he had been involved launching the Leaf, Versa Note, Juke and Qashqai crossover, to Nissan's U.S. quality team.

Quality is a key concern, but it goes hand in hand with Nissan's desire to hold down costs, Mann says.

"We've grown in volume by 35 percent globally since 2010, but profitability still isn't what we want," Mann says.

Last fall, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn jolted the company when he complained that higher-than-expected operating costs have slowed his goal of delivering an 8 percent global operating-profit margin by March 2017.

For the fiscal year ended March 31, Nissan reported a 5.3 percent operating profit, down from 5.4 percent a year before. Ghosn cited the "headwinds" of product recalls and the expense of adding manufacturing capacity around the world, including the new Rogue line in Smyrna. Nissan has new or expanded manufacturing operations coming online in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, England and China.

"We're at an inflection point right now where we can reinforce what we said we would deliver," Mann says. "We want to control our revenues and reduce our costs. If you do that, you can be successful."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.


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