June 19, 2012
CEO Master Class
Hidetaka Aoki, an MBA candidate at Keio Business School, had a one-on-one executive tutorial with Carlos Ghosn following the Nissan CEO’s talk at the university.
Q1. How should college students prepare to become global leaders and deal with risk management?
CEO Carlos Ghosn:
I think the first thing is to learn something which is obvious: you never achieve anything by yourself. Everything which is about collaborative management, motivation of people, how to make yourself interesting, impactful, how to make sure you’re putting people into situations in which they are motivated is extremely important.
Particularly, also to protect yourself again the risk of failure is getting the team around you motivated – give them priorities. Making sure they share the vision is the most important thing to learn. Obviously, nothing replaces the practice after. But knowing what are the fundamentals of this approach is very important.
Q2. With electric vehicles becoming more widespread, are automakers under threat from new entrants from outside the industry?
There will be already a lot of competition from the car industry. I don’t believe too much competition will come from outside the industry, or, if it happens, they will end up joining forces with some car manufacturer. I think that electric cars will represent a sizable part of the market – 10% of the global market in 2020 – particularly in the markets where the cars are offered.
And you’re going to have a lot of competition coming from other zero-emission technology, like fuel-cells. Fuel-cells are based on hydrogen, which is also a competing technology. But you’re going to see more and more cars from the concept of zero-emission.
Q3. Do you see automobile companies from emerging markets as threat? What is your strategy for this issue?
I don’t think they are a threat. They are a de facto something that is going to happen, because we’ve never seen a market developing without bringing with it some car manufacturers. When the Japanese market developed it brought Japanese car makers. When the Korean market developed, it brought with it Korean car makers. And I think the Chinese will bring also some Chinese car makers – and the Indians, too.
So it is something that we’re expecting. I don’t think it’s a threat. I think it’s part of the normal evolution of the industry. But so far, we have not seen any in the emerging markets becoming a global carmaker. They are competitive, but more regionally than globally. But it will probably come – not in the short-term, but in the mid-term.
Q4. How are you going to deal with a trend of young people turning away from driving in Japan?
I think it’s a trend that we are watching very carefully. Part of it can be understood because young people today have so many other areas of interest than cars. In my generation, you had the car and the television – that’s all. There was nothing else. Today you have websites, iPhone and its applications. So, I understand that in relative terms it’s taking a smaller place.
But at the same time, young people are interested in more technology in the car. The car should be more environmentally friendly; it should allow for a better communication with your surroundings. And it’s our duty as car manufacturers to bring more and more of these technologies in our cars so that they are more attractive to young people.
I don’t think it’s a threat. I think it’s a challenge.
Q5. Educating and searching for a company’s next CEO is an important task for a CEO. What do you think is the most important thing required for the next CEO of Nissan?
I think for any CEO of any major company what you want is someone who have been performing his whole career – someone who has brought about a lot of results and is respected for that. Also, somebody extremely open because we’re going to be getting into a period in which a lot of change is going to happen, and you need someone who can understand this change and who can adapt the company to these changes.
And somebody who can connect with people. Nissan is a company with 250,000 people across the globe. We have Chinese, Brazilian, American, Mexican, French, British, Russians, Indians. So, you need somebody who can really connect with all of these people and make sure that they can really feel good about having somebody open and somebody who understand the reality of the world so we can keep the motivation in the company very strong.