TOKYO - Yoshikazu Hanawa spent the early part of his career at Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in personnel and corporate planning. Now, as the president of Japan's second-largest auto company prepares for closer ties with Renault SA, he is going back to his roots.
'It's our plan to cut significantly the number of our board members' from the current 37, as well as the number of corporate officers, Hanawa said.
'I'm now in the process of finding new jobs for those who may retire,' he said in remarks at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
In order to put the Nissan-Renault alliance on an 'equal footing,' Hanawa said, he wants to send two other Nissan top managers to the Renault board. That way, three Renault executives would sit on Nissan's board, and three Nissan executives, including Hanawa, would sit on Renault's.
'I'm now in the selection process' for nominees, he said.
Not everyone who leaves Nissan can expect Hanawa's direct aid in finding a new job, of course. Nissan plans to cut 5,000 nonproduction workers worldwide, 3,000 of them in Japan, by the end of March 2001.
'We're not considering layoffs,' Hanawa said. He conceded, though, that 'natural attrition is not enough, so we're thinking of other measures,' including early retirements and the outsourcing of in-house departments.
On the manufacturing side, Nissan said recently that it plans to cut its capacity in Japan to 1.5 million, from 2 million currently - well below the previous target of 1.7 million.
'The chances of closing a whole plant are rather slim,' Hanawa said. 'What I call a 'partial closure' is a possibility.' That would involve closing one or more production lines, rather than the entire plant.
Traditionally, departing senior executives at Japanese carmakers have moved on to top positions in the maker's keiretsu of affiliated suppliers. That route may be less of an option for Nissan's early retirees, however.
'The keiretsu in actual practice has been unraveling,' Hanawa said. 'There are only a few parts suppliers doing business only with Nissan, and that number will further diminish in the days ahead.
'Those makers which are in our keiretsu are doing increasing business with our rivals: maybe not Toyota, but Honda, Mazda, General Motors, Ford ... ,' he said. 'That's been encouraged by us.'
Hanawa said that the day after Nissan and Renault signed the agreement under which Renault paid $5.4 billion for a controlling 36.8 percent stake in Nissan, he assembled Nissan's suppliers to brief them on the deal.
Hanawa told them: 'This alliance represents a big chance for you.'