Feature Interview

January 2014

Creating an Entirely New Brand for an Entirely New Company: Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors Joint-Venture, NMKV

Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have made history by establishing the first joint-investment joint-venture in the Japanese automotive industry with NMKV Co., Ltd., a company specializing in the planning and development of minicars. Thanks to the success of the Nissan DAYZ and the Mitsubishi eK Wagon, NMKV is now expected to create outside of its original scope. With the launch of this new company, we were chosen as partners to create the official website which opened in 2013.
For this edition of funNOTE, we interviewed NMKV Corporate Planning Group's Mr. Noriyuki Nakazawa (formerly with Mitsubishi Motors) and Mr. Yoshihiro Tanahama (formerly with Nissan). Mr. Nakazawa and Mr. Tanahama both played crucial roles in developing the business of this fascinating endeavor and were also the key driving force behind the creation of the NMKV website. Let us share with you what we learned about their work and the efforts that went into creating NMKV's official website.

Noriyuki Nakazawa: General Manager, HR and General Administration Group Affairs Team, Corporate Planning Group, NMKV Co., Ltd.
Yoshihiro Takahama: Manager, HR and General Administration Group HR Team, Corporate Planning Group, NMKV Co., Ltd.
Mariko Ohsato: CEO & President, Arc Communications Inc.
Yoshihiro Sato: Web Executive Manager, Arc Communications Inc.

Models of First Cars Produced: A Big Success

Ohsato: I would like to start by congratulating you on the big success of the Nissan DAYZ and the Mitsubishi eK Wagon. First of all, how did you come to grips with this huge success?

Nakazawa: It was the first time Nissan and Mitsubishi worked as one and tackled manufacturing. So there were various hardships, but all in all, I believe we managed to produce the results expected of us. The parent companies issued official comments that included words like "the success of the joint-venture" and "further enhance and bolster NMKV", which were very much of a relief.

Takahama: While working in domestic sales at Nissan, I was particularly attracted by the idea of working on the promotion of minicars. And I thought that, from a sales perspective, the teaming up of Nissan and Mitsubishi would undoubtedly produce hits, and this thought turned into belief when I got to see the actual vehicles. The result brought a sense of relief, but it also gave me confidence in the idea that with such potential, we would be able to set our sights even higher and aim for a mega success on the next project.

Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors and NMKV: Working Together to Create a Structure and Generate Added Value

Ohsato: So, the cars were off to a good start, but how about NMKV as a joint-venture company? Despite being actors in the same industry, the two parent companies had no particular connections up to that point. Therefore, I imagine that reconciling both working methods must have been difficult at times?

Nakazawa: I very much hoped that working at NMKV would be a way for me to learn about companies other than Mitsubishi, and that it would also give me the rare opportunity to see Mitsubishi from a different perspective, a view from the outside. NMKV allowed me to do exactly that. The main premise thought by Nissan and Mitsubishi was to build a win-win partnership, and decisions had to be made in order to attain and sustain such a relationship. We also knew that the parent companies, looking to generate added value they couldn't achieve independently, put high hopes on NMKV. This type of expectation is a lot of pressure, but we enjoy the challenge and the sense of mission we face each day. NMKV is still writing the first page of its history, so striving to build a fruitful structure while coordinating the relationship and its two large decision-making processes was an extremely tough job.

Ohsato: So how did you tackle this challenge?

Nakazawa: We started by presenting the three main purposes behind establishing NMKV to our employees and the media: "thinking outside of the box", "making sure that 1+1 always equals 2 or more" and "speedy decision-making". Then, based on this, we thoroughly considered what to do next and put them into practice. We set up a meeting board and implemented a firm decision-making system after clearly determining our respective views and positions. Indeed, working in an environment where we have to temperate in two multinational companies, we need our own perspective as NMKV or else we will always end up going back and forth between their diverging opinions without ever coming to any conclusions. As a result of creating such structure, we were able to clearly define our own guidelines and make decisions. This led to smooth execution of operations and, at the same time, we managed to build a framework which generates high added value. Our website shows a picture of a small cog-wheel in between two larger gears, and I think that this cog-wheel perfectly summarizes and symbolizes our role as NMKV. I dare say that we managed to demonstrate the importance of NMKV's role in taking on tasks that couldn't have been achieved by our parent companies otherwise.