Andrew Humberstone at Nissan's Live ShowroomAndrew Humberstone at Nissan's Live Showroom


Exclusive: ‘I consider myself a bit of a disruptor’ – Nissan UK boss talks about why he relishes challenges

As Nissan’s UK dealer network undergoes a refresh, its boss sits down with Car Dealer to discuss where he wants to take the brand

Time 12:05 pm, March 31, 2022

You could forgive Andrew Humberstone for feeling hard done by at the hand he’s been dealt, but far from it.

He was made managing director of Nissan Motor GB in January 2020, replacing Kalyana Sivagnanam, but just a couple of months later… well, we all know what happened.

‘There are so many external disruptors. It’s actually one of the reasons why I love the industry space so much,’ he says with a little smile.

‘There are the ones you can predict and the ones you can’t. Covid – we didn’t predict that. Ukraine – we didn’t predict that either.’

He continues: ‘But, you know, there’s so much going on in our space – whether it’s online, shifting consumer behaviour, changing manufacturing concepts, or whether it’s managing waste and energy. Or perhaps it’s even the surging costs of raw materials – it’s all of these things.

‘It’s all happening. It’s really quite dynamic. And if I think back five, six years ago, it all was so different. It was a very stable, structured 20-year plan – you knew what products were coming and the pipelines were very visible.

‘It’s a different world now.’

For this interview, we met in Nissan’s Live Showroom in Watford. It opened last year but was recently expanded because of a shift in consumers’ wishes to communicate with Nissan digitally.

James Batchelor is shown the new Nissan Ariya at Nissan's Live Showroom

James Batchelor is shown the new Nissan Ariya at Nissan’s Live Showroom in Watford

It’s a retail concept you’d find hard to imagine from Nissan pre-pandemic, and perfectly demonstrates Humberstone’s belief that the industry has changed.

Behind the polite smile, it’s clear Humberstone is a very confident leader, with clear ideas on where he wants to take this very Japanese of Japanese car brands.

‘I consider myself a bit of a disruptor,’ he states.

‘I always put my hand up and head above the parapet to take on challenges to problems.

‘When I look at a business, I always say, what are the isomorphic elements that need to be adjusted? What are the key challenges that we’re not touching?

‘Because if a business is just operating, you’re looking at tweaks, small tweaks, which optimise on performance and efficiencies.

‘But then you start stepping back and saying, “Well, hang on, what does our own model look like in 15 to 20 years’ time? And what are we doing about it today?”

‘We recently got the opportunity to present a White Paper to Makoto Uchida, our global CEO, on innovation and ideas that we had for the UK where we wanted to be the case study market – how, as an important market, can we make a difference and move ahead, given where our customers are, given where the mindset is for digitisation, online technology, and so many other elements?

‘I would argue all of that was very predictable – we just didn’t know what the timeline was. Covid was just an accelerant on those, but it was an inevitable one.’

Nissan’s UK dealer network is currently undergoing a refresh, with showrooms sporting a new corporate image, and with the brand entering a busy period for new products while having to adjust to changing customer purchasing behaviours, Humberstone knows that he has to keep dealers happy.

‘Customers are telling us that they still want to have a relationship with their dealer, specifically at the point of actual acquisition and collection, and the service experience.

A handheld device being used at Nissan's Live Showroom

Customers can be given live virtual walk-rounds of the Leaf, Qashqai and new Ariya at Nissan’s Live Showroom

‘So we are looking at a new concept, which, if I use old-fashioned terminology, is “fewer, bigger, better”.

‘We want to have bigger partners, look at our ideal network plan and question “how do we manage this going forwards in order to drive dealer profitability?”

‘We’ve seen a fantastic improvement in return on sales – we’re sitting at 2.7 per cent. Sales are up on last year, profitability is up on last year and customer satisfaction is up on every single matrix.’

Humberstone believes that this year dealers will improve on the 68,000 sales the brand managed in 2021, and that 2023 ‘will be even better’ thanks to a ‘plethora of products arriving at perfect time’.

It’s for that very reason that switching to an agency sales model is off the table – for the short term, at least.

‘So many people are looking at this [agency sales] and there’s so much discussion. I would say, arguably, it’s being overanalysed,’ he said.

‘What I would look at is what’s working for my dealers – that’s my key priority. We’re about to launch five amazing new products and the current model works. It works for our dealers.

‘That’s what we’re focusing on for 2022 and 2023 and that’s where our energy is.’

When pushed on whether an agency sales model could be introduced after 2023, Humberstone doubled down on not wanting to ‘disrupt’ the current model.

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‘Time will tell,’ he said. ‘But if I go back to the number of new models we’re launching, the big picture strategy and the £1bn investment into Sunderland that Nissan has made, we’ve got so much going on.

‘We want to focus on really driving our business forward. We are really focused and busy with that, and the last thing we want to do is disrupt our dealer network at this particular point.’

This interview appears in issue 169 of Car Dealer along with news, reviews, features and much more. Click here to read and download the magazine for free! 

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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