What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started my career at Nissan and worked in sales administration in the UK. At first, I wasn’t interested in cars. My brother used to rebuild them, and my dad raced them, but I was indifferent. However, I quickly found it fascinating why anyone would buy a new car. It is just not rational, but people have an interesting mix of rational needs and emotional desire. My background and interests got me to look at the psychology behind these purchase decisions. I just loved the reaction of people when they drove these cars, bought them or showed them off to family and friends.
Your greatest achievement?
I moved to Paris in 2012 to lead the marketing communications team. While we had great success at managing awareness and opinions of models such as Qashqai and Juke, the same wasn’t true when it came to driving our brand value. We believed that to fix this we needed to increase communication about Nissan’s core values and beliefs in a way that would connect with people. We chose the UEFA Champions League as our vessel. I set about building a proposal and driving the pitch to UEFA to secure the platform, which we ultimately succeeded in. To this day, it is the Nissan campaign that has had the biggest impact on people. I am proud to have led the team in Europe to this achievement.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I like to think of failure as a process that you see many entrepreneurs go through. During my university days my brother and I ran a company called Discounts4Students. It listed local places where students could get a 10 percent discount on things such as haircuts or food at a pub.
We managed to grow the business to four cities and wanted to take it national. However, we couldn’t secure the funds we needed. This experience taught me to ask important questions such as: What can we deliver that others can’t? Why should customers pay for it? Why is this the right time to focus on it? The answers are as important today as they were back then. This is especially true when it comes to asking customers to pay for something such as car-sharing or energy service opportunities that will better their lives.
What is your current challenge at work?
I have to manage customer expectations around electric vehicles. Many people are buying an electric car for the first time. While EVs offer so much more than a traditional car and give a modern driving experience, they are still different. Consumers have to get used to them. I made the change to an EV in 2012. I always say that once you drive an EV you never go back. It is my daily challenge to encourage mainstream consumers to take that first step. It is all about explaining the differences in a simple way so people can make this positive change for themselves, their families and society as a whole.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
I am amazed at how low the customer ranks during conversations. Even though it is the driving force behind what we all do, it is easy to let all the issues in your inbox take over. Instead we need to remain focused on customer satisfaction. Nissan has driven a much stronger brand value over the last few years in Europe because it is putting the customer first.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Be true to myself. This advice came from my wife and was recently repeated by Nissan Europe’s former chairman, Paul Willcox.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
You have to understand that the automotive industry is going through the biggest and most exciting change in its history. The future is going to be different and adaptability will be key. Smart actions will drive incredible opportunities. It is about asking: How do we create value for customers in a world that needs rapid solutions to global challenges? It is a question we should try and answer every day.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I want to create a new job because the industry keeps changing. I wonder if marketing directors or product managers will be needed in a world that is going digital. I would love to help drive customer desire by providing an increasing number of great innovative and integrated services such as the advantages of connected, electric, and shared products. It is a big change from today but it is the future.
What do you do to relax?
I like running with my dogs. I also like to play golf when I can and spend time with my kids assembling Lego.
What is your pet peeve?
I don’t like it when managers find fault in what is presented to them. Instead they should look to help their teams and support strong performance.
What was your first car?
I drove a Rover Metro that my friends named Buffy. I thought that was rather unkind.
I drive a grey Nissan Leaf 30kWh. It’s very dirty from frequent Saturday trips to netball and dancing activities with my kids and the occasional round of golf.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be an e-NV200, which is our electric van. My family considers me to be a packhorse. I think I have a lot more to give, just like this amazing product. With zero emissions for the Amazon Generation, it is a nice link to how I try to work and what I believe in.
September 2015-present: Electric vehicle and zero emissions strategy director, Nissan Europe, Paris, France
2012-2015: Marketing communications general manager, Nissan Europe, Paris
2011-2012: Juke Product Manager, Nissan Europe, Rolle, Switzerland
2009-2011: Digital section manager, Nissan Europe, Paris
2007-2009: Digital coordinator, Nissan Great Britain, London, England
2005-2007: Sales performance manager southern region, Nissan Great Britain, London
2003-2007: Sales administrator, Nissan Great Britain, London