Paul Willcox, Chairman, Nissan Europe
Who is Paul?
He is responsible for the overall management, performance and strategic direction of the business across its nine regions – the UK, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Benelux, Nordics, Eastern Europe and Russia.
As Nissan's Chairman for Europe Paul Willcox's role is to coordinate, give direction and deliver performance in Europe in all dimensions. Paul is the first European chairman to have a background in sales and marketing rather than manufacturing and he says this gives him a different perspective to the job.
As such he says a large part of his role is to bring a consistency to the Nissan brand in Europe as well as clarity in what it represents. Another focus is to improve planning capabilities so that appropriate rigour is applied to the products and investments that are made in Europe to ensure the region meets its objectives.
Paul signs off and agrees the final targets for Europe with a clear plan for the region's performance, volume and profitability. This plan is then fully cascaded through the company with clear objectives by function and for each market.
Paul says that the European markets work very well as one team. The region has also had significant product successes, such as Nissan Qashqai.
Paul started his career at Nissan as the district sales manager in the sales team in South London and has worked for the company for more than 20 years. After graduating from Lancaster University, UK with a Management Sciences degree, Paul spent four years at Peugeot GB as a trainee.
He joined Nissan GB in 1992 and has held numerous management positions in sales and marketing including Manager Corporate Planning, General Manager Marketing Strategy and Pricing and Marketing Director Nissan GB. He gained European experience at Nissan's Amsterdam regional offices through several stints in regional roles including as market manager for Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Paul then extended his experience running mid-term planning for Europe based in Paris before then taking over the pricing remit for Europe.
He was appointed Vice President Marketing for Nissan Europe in 2005 based in Paris. After three years he returned to Nissan GB as Managing Director. In 2011 he took up the position of Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing for Nissan Europe, a position he left in September 2013.
On being appointed as Chairman in January 2014 he focused the business on becoming the most desirable Asian car brand in Europe by 2020 and on growing the Nissan brand to deliver on its promise of Innovation that Excites for Everyone.
Achievements at Nissan
The transformation of Nissan in Europe since the late 1990s is an achievement of which the whole organisation can be proud, Paul says. "The performance and growth sustained in Europe, with profit, is a remarkable turnaround. We now have credibility globally and we get greater support globally as a result." He also says from a product perspective that Qashqai has been a resounding success for Europe.
The announcement of the Renault-Nissan Alliance in March 1999 stands out in Paul's mind as a key memory during his time at Nissan. He says: "The transformation of the company at that time was incredible. The biggest move was towards absolutely clarity on what drives profitability and performance in the business."
Why is Nissan Different
Paul says Nissan's strength lies in its agility and the ability of the organisation to determine its own direction. There's a degree of autonomy within the business for markets to work cross-functionally and help determine their own direction. He says: "We are a good team and whether you are in sales and marketing, manufacturing or engineering, it feels there is a one-team ethic in Europe."
Paul says investment in future powertrain technology will lead the direction of the automotive industry. He says that electric vehicles will play a fundamental part in the future as the market for this technology develops.
Education and Awards
In Paul's Personal Time
Paul is married with three adult children. Outside of work his focus is a renovation project of an old farmhouse in the UK. However, due to his constant travelling he admits his wife has been largely left in charge. He also has a lifelong passion for motorbikes.
Paul's Current Ride
Paul currently drives and Infiniti FX. His first car was a 1972 Mini 1000. 1972. He says it was "harvest gold with lots of rust and bad brakes."