NASHVILLE -- In moving its U.S. headquarters out of California, Toyota hopes to avoid some of the problems that Nissan encountered when it did the same thing in 2006.
Sources inside Toyota say they already dissected Nissan North America’s move and were particularly dismayed to see that their Japanese rival lost roughly 60 percent of its 1,300 Los Angeles headquarters staffers and executives when it relocated to Nashville.
Toyota concedes that some personnel loss is unavoidable. Corporate relocation consultants say Nissan’s loss rate was not unusual. Atlas Van Lines, which surveys corporations on the topic every year, reported last year that the average relocation saw 54 percent of employees decline to move, and that number has decreased slightly in recent years.
But Nissan, along with one former executive who made the 2006 move, counters that the trainwreck scenario critics at the time predicted for Nissan proved to be wrong.
“I came to Nashville with only two of my product planners,” recalls Larry Dominique, who relocated with Nissan North America as vice president of product planning but returned to California in 2011 to become executive vice president of TrueCar.
Seven of his department’s top nine vehicle planners opted not to stay with Nissan.
Dominique himself had been promoted to the top spot after his own boss, Jack Collins, took the relocation as an opportunity to retire. Twelve high-level executives opted to leave Nissan, including Jed Connelly the senior vice president of sales and marketing at the time.
“People said we’d never be able to recruit the new talent we needed to replace everyone,” Dominique recalls of his product-planning team. “And that did take some work. But we did it. We assembled a great staff.”