The Egyptian automotive sector was surprised a few days ago when Nissan Motor Egypt’s Managing Director, Kohei Maeda, resigned one year after assuming duties in April 2018, and was replaced by Mike Whitfield, the former Nissan managing director in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
Whitfield is one of the company’s top leaders in Africa, and will also take over as the new chairperson of Nissan in South Africa. Whitfield is of South African origin and completed his studies there, where he attended the St Alban’s College then graduated from the University of Natal, before joining Nissan as an intern in marketing in 1981. Over the years, he spent his career in the corridors of Nissan. His most prominent position was taking over as managing director of Nissan Nordic Europe Oy in Finland.
His main task was to convert the company into a new independent company controlling all Nissan operations in the Nordic and Baltic countries for three years from 2005 to 2008. In 2008, Whitfield took the position of managing director of Nissan South Africa, and remained in office for more than 11 years until May 2019.
During that time, he was able to raise the company’s sales to fairy-tale levels that are the highest in its history in the region. As part of his vision for the future of electric cars and hybrids, he introduced the Nissan Leaf model to South Africa in 2013, only three years after being launched globally. In 2015, he joined forces with BMW South Africa and the government to build recharge stations for the companies’ models, and worked on the design and establishment of national recharge stations.
As managing director of the Nissan Africa Group, Whitfield and the Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana, Alan Kyerematen, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a car factory in Ghana in November 2018, after the company’s sales denominated 32.8% of the market in 2017. He also contributed to introducing Nissan to Nigeria as the first manufacturing company there. His latest achievement in South Africa was in April when Nissan South Africa announced investing $213m to boost the factory’s capacity by 30,000 units to introduce the New Navara models. Whitfield is an insightful man in the automotive industry and could be the man of the current stage in Egypt, as he used to be the president of the National Association of Automotive Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) and vice president of the African Association of Auto Manufacturers Association (AAAM).
Nissan’s vision for Africa is now to be a great investment opportunity for the company’s future. With regard to Egypt, Whitfield is considered the man closer to the localisation of the automobile industry in African countries, which is similar to Egypt in social and economic conditions and the problems of government sectors. It will either expand its existing plant or create a new plant, and if those rumours are true, selecting Whitfield will be successful. He also believes that the African continent will be attractive to the smart car rental sector, which is exactly what Nissan Egypt needs right now, after the launch of several projects for electric cars, most notably the launch of several electric car projects, such as the BMW i series.