Nissan's Mann: From Sex Pistols to Buckingham Palace

Trevor Mann
Title: Chief performance officer, Nissan Motor Corp.
Age: 53
Family: Partner Julia, 3 daughters
Based: Tokyo
Hometown: Leigh, outside Manchester, England
Honors: Commander of the British Empire; Freeman of the City of Sunderland
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Trevor Mann joined Nissan in 1985 as a team leader in its then-new Sunderland, England, assembly plant.

Nearly 30 years later, Mann travels the globe as Nissan's chief performance officer, visiting every business region, from India to Canada, to help local sales and manufacturing executives stay on track with objectives.

Staff Reporter Lindsay Chappell caught up with him during his quarterly trip to Nissan's North American headquarters in Nashville.

Q: Like a lot of globe-trotting auto execs, you probably don't have much free time. But what happens when you do?

A: I'm based in Japan and my family lives in the U.K., so I try to spend my free time with them in the U.K. I get home about once a month.

I've always been a golfer and used to play most weeks. But I think I got to play three times last year.

Still, you must get on some great courses as you travel the world.

Last year I played a very interesting course in Chennai, India. It had shared fairways, with play going up and down on the same fairway. You had to watch where you were going.

You are just the right age to have been a British punk rock fan in the 1970s. Yes?

Yes, I was a bit of a rocker earlier in the '70s. Deep Purple. David Bowie in his early days. But then I was into punk when punk came along.

Sex Pistols?

I did like the Pistols. I also really liked Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Stranglers. Then I sort of moved into soul music.

Fine Young Cannibals?

Yeah, Fine Young Cannibals. But also Luther Vandross and Motown. I've since gotten very eclectic. I've got Andrea Bocelli on my playlist now.

Here you sit in Nashville, but I'm not hearing you mention Johnny Cash.

Country music never really got me.

You've received a lot of prestigious honors in recognition of your work in Northern England with Nissan.

I've been quite lucky. I was awarded the Commander of the British Empire from the queen in 2012. And last year I was made a Freeman of the City of Sunderland.

How do you find out that you've been chosen for commendation by the queen of England?

You get a letter in the mail. It's always announced on New Year's Eve that you're on the queen's New Year's Honours List. But about six weeks before that, they send you a letter saying that you're being considered -- and "is it OK for us to consider you?"

Which is the polite way of saying, "Please tell us if there's some reason we shouldn't consider you"?

Right. Then you're invited to Buckingham Palace to visit with the queen. But not always the queen. Naturally, it's a bit long for the queen to stand all day. When I went, it was with Prince Charles.

I assume there's a solemn obligation that goes along with it.

You're expected to be a good representative of the country and support the country's initiatives. In my past, I've worked quite closely with the government to improve the automotive industry and manufacturing in the U.K. I've worked to help improve the economic condition of the Sunderland region.

So what is a "Freeman of Sunderland"?

It means freedom of the city of Sunderland. That one allows me to pass my sheep over the city's Queen Alexandra Bridge. And apparently, if I commit a fairly horrible crime, they will allow me to be hanged with a silk rope as opposed to an ordinary one.

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