Nissan chief predicts autos will remain Japan’s top industry

While some analysts say Japan’s auto industry has matured and has little room for growth, the president of Nissan Motor Co. believes the industry will continue to be Japan’s leading sector in the 21st century.”There may be a new industry that will grow in the future, such as the information business, but it is unlikely that the scale of such a new industry will grow to match our size in the next 20 to 30 years,” Yoshikazu Hanawa, president of Nissan, said in an interview with The Japan Times. The president of the nation’s second largest automaker said the industry makes a major contribution to the labor market and that no other industry would be able to employ such huge numbers. The auto industry is estimated to have created about 7.13 million jobs, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.Japanese automakers’ business appears to have finally recovered in 1996, although it received a large dose of assistance from the yen’s decline against the dollar. As in other industries, automobiles have suffered from the economic slump brought about by the collapse of the asset-inflated bubble economy in the late 1980s.During the years of the bubble economy, he said, Nissan expanded its production capacity sharply and it is now struggling to reduce the excess capacity since the economy has slowed down. “We learned a lesson from our past experiences,” he said. “We will not sharply increase our production capacity because that may leave problems later on despite the recent decline of the yen’s value.”Hanawa said Nissan must increase the strength of its products and the company as a whole will have to closely observe the market to be competitive, pointing out that the trend of popular models had been changing quickly in recent years. “Although we must concentrate our efforts on both sales and products, the priority must be placed on developing products,” he said. “Our company as a whole must be market conscious.”