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Nissan takes axe to regional offices

Redundancies: Nissan has cleared out its regional sales staff as it "rebuilds".

Regional division members go as Nissan seeks to replace senior sales staff

11 Aug 2009

NISSAN Australia has retrenched at least 24 sales staff at each of its four regional offices.

The unprecedented move was made last week, when nine members of the Southern Region office in Dandenong (Melbourne) were fired, along with eight Northern Region staff in Acacia Ridge (Brisbane), four Western Region workers in Welshpool (Perth) and three Eastern region representatives in Homebush (Sydney).

Nissan Australia spokesman Jeff Fisher said the simultaneous sackings were not aimed at cost-cutting and that an unspecified number would be replaced by new staff members in an effort to “readjust the standard of skill and knowledge” across Nissan’s state offices.

“A handful of people at each regional office have gone,” confirmed Mr Fisher. “Some went earlier this year – not all of them left in the past two weeks – including a number from Dandenong (HQ) too.

“Nissan want to be Australia’s number-one importer by the 2012 financial year and we think we have a pretty good shot at achieving that goal.

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“We think that to do that we need to have a look at our structure, particularly with regard to the regions. We want to put in place the right skill sets to let the dealer network help us get to that goal and we’re rebuilding the business to get to that goal.” Mr Fisher said Nissan Australia’s management group, led by managing director and CEO Dan Thompson, decided the company had to “retune” its resources to meet that goal.

“It is a readjustment in the standard of skill and knowledge at regional level,” he said. “It is not about cost-cutting, but about getting the right people on board.

“We’re focused on the mid-term plan and the changes that we made aim to assist the dealer network to become more rounded businesses and enhance their potential.” Mr Fisher could not reveal how many staff would be replaced, but GoAuto understands a number of personnel are currently being trained at Nissan Australia to fill many of the recently vacated positions.

“We have a number of new people coming into the organisation,” he said. “We will replace a number, but I’m not sure of the percentage.” Nissan dealer council chairman John Hawkins told GoAuto the loss of experienced sales staff from the company’s regional offices was concerning.

“We have shared our concern with Nissan because the rumours have been flying round now for probably three months and we’ve been worried for some time that having inexperienced people would be a retrograde step for us as dealers,” said Mr Hawkins.

“At present we are experiencing stock shortages due to their business model in the current economic climate. In the first six months of this financial year, when sales were slow, a lot of the factories built up stock so they sort of de-stocked.

“Without people who understand forward ordering over an extended period we’re concerned we’ll be caught short.” Last week’s staff departures followed a number of others at regional and head office level in April, when executives that departed Dandenong included company secretary Colin Buckley, marketing manager Ross Booth and, later, sales manager Steven Collins, whose most recent role as general manager of sales and marketing is yet to be filled.

Apart from Mr Thompson, who has a background in finance, Nissan Australia’s senior management team currently only includes chief operating officer – finance, Richard De Dood.

GoAuto understands that sacked Northern Region manager Stephen Downes, who until August 5 had led Nissan Australia’s best performing sales region, will be replaced. Just four staff were spared in Brisbane – including two aftersales representatives – following the firing of most sales and servicing managers.

Queensland is also one of the top-selling light-commercial vehicle (LCV) markets for Nissan Australia, whose near-15 per cent sales decline to July 2009 is in line with the overall industry’s, mainly due to slower sales of the Tiida small car and X-Trail compact SUV. LCVs are expected to play a vital role in Nissan’s local ‘2012 Vision’ strategy.

One Nissan dealer, who wished to remain anonymous, told GoAuto: “They decided that hundreds of years of experience was not the right sort of experience and so they’re replacing them with academics with no motor industry experience.

“They’re all in Melbourne this week to be trained before fronting up next Monday morning. How are we expected to do business when they’ve stripped out all that experience,” said the dealer, who added he believed Nissan Australia deemed some of its staff to be too close to its dealers.

It is understood most regional Nissan jobs to be replaced are business development and sales managers, while some state-based distribution, fleet and facilities positions have been shifted to Nissan’s Dandenong HQ.

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