Look Ahead, Don't Stand Still | Summary and Q&A

July 27, 2009
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Look Ahead, Don't Stand Still

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In this video, the CEO of Renault-Nissan discusses the unique alliance between the two companies, their global market share, and the challenges they face in managing a culturally diverse workforce. He also talks about the importance of the car industry and the need for technological advancements and innovation to address issues such as fuel efficiency and environmental sustainability. The CEO highlights the significance of leadership in driving organizational success and navigating through uncertainties and disruptions. He concludes by emphasizing the importance of alliances and partnerships in the industry and the potential rise of new players in developing countries.

Questions & Answers

Q: What makes the alliance between Renault and Nissan unique?

The alliance between Renault and Nissan is unique because it is the first time two companies are working together with cross-shareholding and a focus on cooperation rather than competition. This has resulted in the creation of value through increased market capitalization, profit growth, and investment efficiency.

Q: How does the car industry contribute to employment globally?

The car industry generates significant employment opportunities globally. For example, Renault and Nissan have a combined workforce of 200,000 employees, and when considering suppliers and service providers, this number increases to around 2 million people. The industry relies on both direct employment within the companies and indirect employment through the network of suppliers and service providers.

Q: How does the car industry differ from a commodity business?

While some may consider the car industry to be a commodity business, it is far from it. The industry is highly competitive, with new players emerging, and established companies declining or disappearing. Technology plays a crucial role in the industry, particularly in areas such as fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness. The need for continuous technological advancements sets it apart from a commodity business.

Q: How does leadership contribute to organizational success?

Leadership is essential for organizations to achieve success, especially in complex and uncertain environments. A good leader provides direction, motivates employees, and navigates through challenges. They unite people with different cultural backgrounds and perspectives, ensuring everyone is working towards a common goal. Leadership becomes particularly critical in times of crisis or uncertainty when employees rely on strong leadership to guide them through difficult situations.

Q: How did cultural barriers hinder the performance of Nissan in the past?

Cultural differences were significant challenges for Nissan in the past. The company lacked a profit-driven mentality and instead considered profit a necessary evil. Additionally, the organization operated in silos, with engineers working separately from marketers and salespeople. There was also a tendency to prioritize personal preferences over customer preferences when designing cars. Finally, there was a lack of trust and recognition between different cultural backgrounds, causing divisions within the company.

Q: How do you overcome cultural barriers and manage a diverse workforce effectively?

Overcoming cultural barriers requires a focused effort to change the culture within the organization. This involves emphasizing the importance of profitability, establishing cross-functional collaboration, and aligning decision-making processes with customer needs. It also requires recognizing the value of different cultural backgrounds and ensuring equal opportunities for all employees. A strong leadership culture that emphasizes respect, autonomy, and win-win situations is crucial for managing a diverse workforce successfully.

Q: When can we expect hybrid vehicles and alternative energy fuels to become more prevalent?

While there is significant investment and effort in developing technologies such as hybrid vehicles, electric cars, and clean diesels, mass-market adoption is still a few years away. Technological development is essential, but it must be followed by mass-marketization, making these technologies affordable and accessible to consumers. It is a balancing act between technological advancements and business development.

Q: How do you view the emergence of new players in the car industry, particularly from China and India?

The emergence of new players in the car industry is expected and has historically been a part of the industry's growth. China and India, in particular, have potential to become significant players due to their large markets. Chinese car manufacturers are focused on gaining a stronger position in the domestic market before expanding globally. Indian car manufacturers, on the other hand, are known for their unique approach, creating innovative cars designed specifically for their markets. Established car manufacturers should take note of these developments and adapt their strategies accordingly to remain competitive.

Q: How can successful cars in developing countries lack innovation and remain popular for years?

Success in the car industry is not solely dependent on innovation. Some cars remain popular for years due to various factors, such as their affordability, practicality, and cultural significance. For example, cars like the Nissan 1400 in South Africa have remained popular for decades because they fulfill the needs of the market and have become iconic in their respective regions. The industry is diverse, and success can come from different approaches, including innovation, cost leadership, and market tailoring.

Q: What potential advancements can be made to the car's functionality and connectivity?

The car today has tremendous potential to become more efficient and connected. There are opportunities to improve safety, comfort, and communication within the car. Advancements such as lane followers, bumper sensors, and connectivity to the outside world can enhance the overall driving experience. However, safety remains a priority, and car manufacturers need to strike the right balance between innovation and maintaining focus on safe driving.

Q: How do alliances and partnerships contribute to the success of the car industry?

Alliances and partnerships are crucial in the car industry as they enable companies to pool resources, share technology, and tackle challenges together. The complexity of the industry and the need for continuous innovation make alliances a favorable option to leverage strengths and reduce costs. However, successful alliances require mutual respect, autonomy, and a win-win mentality. The industry has seen examples of failed alliances, highlighting the importance of careful execution and a long-term perspective.


The car industry is highly competitive and requires continuous technological advancements to address challenges such as fuel efficiency and environmental sustainability. The alliance between Renault and Nissan is a unique model that focuses on cooperation rather than competition, resulting in increased value and efficiency. Overcoming cultural barriers and managing a diverse workforce is critical for success in a global industry. New players from China and India pose potential challenges but could also bring innovation and market growth. Additionally, advancements in functionality and connectivity within cars have significant potential, but safety remains a priority. Alliances and partnerships continue to play a vital role in the industry, providing opportunities for resource-sharing and cost reduction.

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