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Changing guards



“New beginnings” has lately been the theme sung for some of the industry’s biggest players as they face new leadership chapters in their respective companies. Strong direction, business strategies, managing product introductions and company supervision proved to be vital keys, especially in the past couple of years as they either make, break or sustain the brand. Hence, it is important that the new leader be competent, shrewd and resilient particularly in this stage of the overall industry’s crucial efforts to recover from last year’s slow numbers.

Nissan’s new leaf

First, Nissan Philippines (NPI) moves forward its president and managing director of the company. In a symbolic turnover ceremony held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, outgoing president Ramesh Narasimhan handed the ceremonial key to Najima after the former’s three remarkable years of leadership.

Narasimhan had an impressive stint with NPI, leading the company in record-breaking sales for consecutive years. He established a stronger product line with the Navara, Terra and the launch of the GT-R and the GT-R NISMO. In fact, Vincent Wijnen, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Nissan Asia & Oceania, impressed with the feat said:

“Under the strong leadership of Ramesh Narasimhan, Nissan has seen significant growth in the promising Philippines market. In calendar year 2018, Nissan’s sales volume in the Philippines grew by 40 percent to an 8.7 percent market share.”

Wijen believes that the succeeding leadership will also deliver.

PK “Uma” Umashankar is set to replace Bert Lessard as head of Ford Phl, bringing with him his vast experience in customer service in the ASEAN market.

“With his rich experience in managing teams across multiple countries, I am confident that Atsushi will continue to drive the strong growth trajectory established by the current leadership team,” he said.

Uma’s leadership and real hands-on approach, coupled with his extensive experience across the business, will help us continue to grow our business and further strengthen our brand in the Philippines.

Najima, a University of Tokyo graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering and a business administration master’s degree holder from Kobe University, first joined Nissan in 2016 and was the general manager in Nissan Motor, Yokohama before moving to the Philippines. He worked previously for Procter & Gamble Singapore, during which time he was associate director, finance manager for Japan and country finance manager for its headquarters in Malaysia and Singapore. In a recent interview, he said:

Ramesh Narasimhan turns over the key to Nissan Philippines to Hiroshi Najima.

“With fantastic results in the past couple of years, the team in the Philippines is very energetic and talented. I’m happy to be part of the organization. Basically, our main operation is to strengthen the fundamentals with a vision to enrich Filipino’s lives and serve more satisfied customers. We have four core strategies for our products, services, customer experience and people that we want to keep on building up.”

“This will result to higher share and higher sales.”

Meantime, Ford Philippines will also soon turn its own page with the announcement of its newly appointed managing director PK “Uma” Umashankar, effective this coming 1 July. He is currently customer service division director of Ford ASEAN, which is based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Umashankar will soon move to Manila and will continue to report directly to Ford ASEAN president Yukontorn “Vickie” Wisadkosin. He will replace Bert Lessard, who returns to Canada.

Uma will soon take the responsibility of continuously driving Ford’s momentum in the country, such as: sustaining the brand’s success in its more fully refreshed vehicle lineup in the market, the ongoing expansion of its dealership network and further enhancing the aftersales experience which includes a more competitive cost of ownership structure for its customers.

“Uma’s leadership and real hands-on approach, coupled with his extensive experience across the business, will help us continue to grow our business and further strengthen our brand in the Philippines,” Wisadkosin stated.

The said new appointee has been working with both the Ford dealer networks and its customer service teams across the ASEAN markets to implement a number of successful initiatives aimed at improving and enhancing the overall customer experience. This includes leading efforts to streamline parts sourcing and delivery across its network, the appointments and launch of the Ford authorized parts distributor network in Thailand, as well as the launch of the Ford-owned Quick Lane brand there.

Suzuki’s new moves

Hiroshi Suzuki’s six-year reign as Suzuki Philippines Inc. (SPI) head honcho, meanwhile, finally came to an end as newly appointed president Akira Suzuki took over last May, on Labor Day.
Suzuki, whose work mostly focused on motorcycles has, in fact, helped boost the number of local shops carrying the brand from 1,900 to 2,801.

Also popularly known as the “dancing president” in the industry, we learned that Suzuki was well-loved by his employees and practically by everyone he came in contact with as he usually entertained guests and spectators with his electrifying dance moves on stage during official gatherings.

In his letter to their dealers and partners dated 22 April, he said: “I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude for your steadfast support during my tenure in the Philippines and the warm friendship that I will keep as I move to new endeavors. It is with great honor and pleasure that we announce the assumption of Mr. Akira Utsumi as new president.”

“His extensive work in the automobile, motorcycle, and marine industry adds up to our confidence, in the continuous growth of the Suzuki brand in the Philippines,” he added.

Utsumi already held positions as president of Suzuki Indonesia and Suzuki Taiwan prior its stint. Hiroshi, on the other hand, is already assuming another assignment in Suzuki Motor Corp. (SMC) in Japan.