YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan Motor Co.'s new CEO, Hiroto Saikawa, is leading the Japanese carmaker into a kinder, gentler era, seven months after taking the wheel from Carlos Ghosn.
Under Saikawa's recently unveiled six-year business plan, he is steering away from his predecessor's aggressive numerical goals and toward more fuzzy ones.
"We are not going to raise numerical objectives to stretch ourselves," Saikawa said last week of the plan. "The theme now is steady growth and maintaining a certain level of profitability."
That softening of hard sales targets could spell some relief for dealers in Nissan's key U.S. market.
Nissan's previous business plan, launched by Ghosn in 2011, dictated a slew of sales and market share goals, including the contentious drive for a 10 percent U.S. market share by March 31, 2017.
While Nissan missed some of Ghosn's targets, Jose Munoz — chairman of Nissan's North American operations and the parent company's chief performance officer — delivered the U.S. 10 percent, but just barely. Nissan and Infiniti hit a combined 10.2 percent as of Feb. 28, 2017.
That slough drew criticism from some dealers who felt strong-armed to move the metal, and even provoked scorn from competitors and analysts who warned it would undermine brand value.
But Munoz said the gain was worth the pain. Under the previous plan, called Power 88, Nissan North America's U.S. sales climbed 50 percent to 1.56 million vehicles in 2016, from 1.04 million in 2011.
"I'm not going to tell you there was absolutely no pressure, but in reality, we have not been trying to achieve a number 'no matter what,'" he said. "This is really huge growth."