MIAMI – Nissan is aware that to be a leader in Latin America it has to play hard and ride out the current financial crisis in Argentina, where in July it opened its new plant, the head of the Japanese automaker’s operations in the region told EFE.
“We’re not here giving it all we’ve got just to be a marginal player – we want to be a leader in the region,” Jose Luis Valla said during an interview in Miami, from where he directs Nissan’s Latin American operations.
One way Nissan has played hard is with the $600 million invested in its plant in the Central Argentine city of Cordoba, which started production last July 31, and comes in addition to the assembly line at Resende, Brazil, in which the automaker invested another $187.5 million.
“What we have to do is play hard in countries that set the pace,” he said in reference to Brazil and Argentina, which represent 70 percent of the regional auto market.
Gone are the days when Nissan was simply an importer with a 3 percent market share – this year it has topped 5 percent.
Valls said that now it has “something to play with” and its plan is to take at least a 7 percent market share over the next six years with its current rate of investment, a target he calls conservative.
To do so it is counting on the passenger vehicles made in Resende – March, Versa and Kicks – and the Frontier pickup manufactured in Cordoba.
He said production in Cordoba is going well with vehicles being delivered right on schedule, and with the idea of gradually stepping up the pace while maintaining top quality.
But the inauguration in July in Cordoba, attended by President Mauricio Macri, has been blemished by an Argentine economy “in turmoil,” with a 98 percent drop in the peso against the dollar so far in 2018, which has forced Nissan to “adjust its plans to reality.”
Though without specifying what those adjustments might be, Valls said the situation has made them double down on their “aggressive plan” by running a “highly efficient” operation and speeding up Nissan’s alliances with local manufacturing associates.
“To shield the company from exchange-rate fluctuations, it has to be split into different parts in different places,” Valls said.
He acknowledged that the environment in the short term isn’t ideal, so he is asking the government to maintain “very clear rules” so it’s possible to plan ahead.
With all that, Valls said Argentina’s financial situation doesn’t change his plans at all, since volatility must be accepted as inherent in the region, and he remains confident in Argentina as a market for pickups and vehicles in general.