Nissan Motor Co.'s plan to dismantle its keiretsu network of vendors is the latest salvo to hit the supplier industry in Japan. The upheaval, while devastating to some longtime keiretsu members, offers opportunities to suppliers who have long been shut out of doing business with Japanese automakers. Textron Automotive Co. of Troy, Mich., has a strategy in place to expand its presence in Japan. Textron Automotive Chairman Sam Licavoli recently met with Asia Editor James B. Treece in Tokyo. Here are edited excerpts:
Given Nissan's very public statement that it will be selling shares in its suppliers, as Mazda already has been doing, there are foreign suppliers out there circling over the Japanese industry. How does that play into your sense of timing?
Timing is everything. But we're not circling over the bodies, looking for the kill.
Our strategy is to service the Japanese globally. We have a lot of business with the Japanese, but none of it in Japan. So in the execution of our strategy, we've felt for a long time that we have to have partnerships in Asia.
What Nissan is doing right now provides perhaps some opportunities that might not have been there two years ago. But that's not why we're here today. Those aren't the only companies we're talking to. We're not just focusing on Nissan affiliates. We're looking at what companies are compatible with us in products, and what companies are complementary to us in skills and technology.
As a reporter, I feel I could say that it's great that you are expanding in Japan, or that you are late. How would you respond?
You can say both.
We're late, but I don't think we're too late. What's important is we have some darned good technology. I think Japanese carmakers could benefit from that technology, and we could partner with some suppliers here so that we could learn from them and they could learn from us.