Patrick Pelata is one of the trio of executives Renault installed at the top of Nissan Motor Co. in April 1999. Pelata, who was senior vice president of vehicle development at Renault, moved to Nissan along with Renault executive vice president Carlos Ghosn and finance chief Thierry Moulonguet.
Pelata, 45, is Nissan's executive vice president responsible for product planning and corporate planning.
He spoke with Automotive News Europe Staff Reporter Luca Ciferri.
What is the biggest problem you have found at Nissan?
Probably what they call neimawashi in Japan - making decisions out of the room, in a series of private meetings that lead to infinite compromises.
For design, it is a true problem. If you look to the concept cars of the late 1980s, Nissan was showing great ideas. But none of those ideas ever influenced new production vehicles.
To avoid such a risk in the future, we built a global, transparent decision process at Nissan. Good ideas should never be lost somewhere within the company.
How are you reinforcing Nissan's brand image?
First, we took product planning away from the engineering department. We named a number of chief product specialists who have to create value for the customer and profits for the company.
In the past, with the neimawashi culture, we had to decide between more product and less cost. We could never choose both.
The product specialists have to create a new brand identity. That brand identity should encompass design, performance, handling, acceleration, color and perceived quality. It needs to be common to the entire Nissan brand worldwide.
To regain market share, Nissan needs new products. What plans do you have in this area?
From April 2000 to April 2003, we will launch 22 new models, 10 of which are for Europe. We are strong with off-roaders and sport-utilities. But we have to renew our offer of sedans and light commercial vehicles. Then, when we are in the black, we can add new sports cars, crossover vehicles, luxury cars.
How many platforms does Nissan have and how many will it have in the future?
Today, Nissan has an offer of about 50 products based on - depending on how you count them - between 15 and 20 different platforms. Eventually, most Renault and Nissan products will be built off 10 common platforms.
Will Europe receive the new Z-car?
(Nissan plans to show its Z-car at the Detroit auto show in January. It is an updated version of its classic 240Z sports car from the 1970s.)
If profitable, the new Z-car will come to Europe.
What about the replacement for the high-performance skyline GTR?
The new Skyline will no longer be right-hand drive only.
What about long working hours in Japan?
When I was at Renault, I thought that 60 hours a week meant working hard. Here at Nissan, I've discovered 70 hours are not enough.
You have been with Renault for 14 years and with Nissan for 18 months . Do you feel like a Renault executive temporarily assigned to Nissan, or a Nissan executive?
A Nissan executive, no doubt about that. Renault is a company I sometimes even have to fight in my current role.