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  • 自問続けて「らしい車」を スポーティーさ強調。ブランド戦略構築 マーク・フィールズ元社長(58)(2020年01月03日掲載)

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自問続けて「らしい車」を スポーティーさ強調。ブランド戦略構築 マーク・フィールズ元社長(58)(2020年01月03日掲載)

2020/1/20 19:28

Ryutaro Inoue, Staff Writer

< Interview with Mark Fields >

At the end of 1999, Mr. Fields became president of Mazda Motor Corporation at the age of 38, and carried out a restructuring of the company. The interview with Mr. Fields was conducted at his Florida office in the United States, and lasted three hours. He told the inside story of the management reconstruction efforts and how they came up with the brand strategy which stresses the sporty image of Mazda vehicles. 

■Mr. Fields arrived at Mazda in August 1998 as an adviser.

My first impression of Mazda was that they had tried to expand “too fast” to match Toyota and Nissan with a number of vehicle lines and sales channels. They had overextended themselves. That was uncompetitive in many cases and resulted in financial losses for the company. What gave me encouragement was the attitude and capability of the Mazda people.  

Mazda is one of the smallest automakers and their head offices are in Hiroshima, which is in the west of the country. They were sometimes the “underdog.” However, there was the spirit that they would rise to the occasion if I was successful laying out challenges and opportunities.

■Mr. Fields continued using the phrase “Change or Die” during his two and a half―year tenure as president.

The majority of senior management has worked for Mazda their entire working life, and there are only a few members from Ford. I wanted the Mazda team to come up with a revitalization plan instead of a few foreigners developing it and instructing them to implement. 

Board members and I had four to five―hour meetings on weekends many times, focusing on how we were going to save the company. I also tried to show them the reality of business so they could see the entire business, and not just their function, and used the phrase “Change or Die” for the company to survive.

■In November 2000, Ujina Plant No. 2 (Minami Ward, Hiroshima) was closed, and an early retirement program was offered to 1800 employees; shocking news to the community. 

I made the revitalization plan after thoroughly communicating with board members. If we didn’t implement the plan, the company was not going to survive. We pursued synergies with Ford as far as it was reasonable, such as sharing the small car platform or engines. We invested in new benefits for Mazda people. I also spent a lot of time with the union to improve relationships.  

■Mr. Fields also put a lot of effort to establish brand.

Brand―building is absolutely critical for automakers. If you don’t have brand differentiation, cost becomes the only factor in which to compete. Mazda will never be the low―cost producer given their scale. If they have clear brand differentiation, consumers will be attracted and be willing to pay more for Mazda versus Toyota or Ford. At that time, Mazda didn’t have a consistent marketing message around the world. As a result, they were losing to the competition in the United States. 

■Mazda’s first worldwide consistent brand message was “Zoom―Zoom,” an English word used by children. 

We took advertising agencies in the world through the brand work and characteristics of the vehicles that Mazda wanted. An advertising agency in the U.S. came up with the “Zoom―Zoom,” which matched our concept that “the driver becomes one with the road,” or “Jinba Ittai” in Japanese. The beauty of “Zoom―Zoom” is it’s literally in every language-people know what that means.

I am particularly attached to the first―generation Atenza, the first product developed under the Zoom―Zoom brand. I still have the brochure. Seita Kanai was the head of the product development.

■Mr. Fields became chief executive officer of Ford after he left Mazda. He talked about the current Mazda from his managerial experiences

I think the design of Mazda vehicles is very unique in the world market place. They have the most attractive design among Japanese automakers. Each one of their vehicles is fun to drive.

On the other hand, they need to have a very clear view to survive in the changing industry. Considering the company size, they just can’t chase after all types of vehicles like sedans, SUVs, or autonomous cars. They need to make sure where they want to play and have a clear strategy to go with it. It is important for them to keep asking that question. I hope they would continue making vehicles that differentiate Mazda from other manufacturers for the next 100 years.

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