Yokohama President and CEO discusses key tire industry issues

Tire industry overview Q&A with Yasushi Tanaka.

Yasushi Tanaka assumed the reins as Yokohama Tire Corporation’s (YTC) new president and CEO six months ago in July 2011…and hit the ground running. Tanaka came from YTC’s parent company, Tokyo, Japan-based The Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd. (YRC), where he was instrumental in developing the company’s Grand Design 100 corporate philosophy.  In this Q&A, Tanaka touches upon several key tire industry issues as well as his vision for YTC.

Question:  As co-architect and co-founder of the Grand Design 100 plan (GD100), what insight can you share about it?

Tanaka: The GD100 is a four-phase management plan and corporate philosophy that was established in 2005 and will be completed in 2017, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of Yokohama. Phase I’s main target was achieving stable growth.   Phase II – which began in 2009 and ended in 2011 –  targeted quality growth. Phase III will start in 2012, followed by Phase IV in 2015, which will culminate in 2017. While at YRC in Japan, I worked at Yokohama’s corporate planning department from 2007 to 2011 where one of my main responsibilities was to develop Phase II of the GD100 program.


Question: Did you achieve everything you wanted for Phase II?

Tanaka: The earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March slowed us down, but our focus remains fixed on our target.


Question:  You were in Japan during the earthquake and for the aftermath. How is the recovery going?

Tanaka: About a month after the March 11 disaster, I visited Sendai, which is located in Northern Japan. It is one of the cities devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. On the way back to Tokyo, I took a plane from the recently reopened Sendai Airport.  The scenes from the plane were terrible.

One month had passed, but the damage was far beyond my imagination. Humankind could do nothing in the face of the earthquake and tsunami.

There was no major damage to any Yokohama tire plants, but Yokohama’s Ibaraki plant for industrial hoses was damaged and forced to shut down for a few days. In addition, some of the domestic sales offices and warehouses were damaged. One employee died in the tsunami.

Immediately after the earthquake, we couldn’t get some raw materials, which impacted our plant operation. Currently, the raw material supply problems are resolved, but there is still an electric supply shortage in Japan because the nuclear power plants have been shut down. Most Japanese companies, including Yokohama, are trying to reduce electricity consumption by reworking operation shifts. This is what I mean when I said earlier that our focus remains on quality growth.  We are doing our best, despite challenges, to stay true to progress.


Question: Speaking of quality growth, what are its main components?   Is plant expansion one element?

Tanaka: Yes. The growth phase is broken into two parts. One part is dedicated to increasing sales, number of employees, plant expansion and worldwide company growth. The second part is quality growth, which focuses on efficiency and profitability.


Question: Is the Salem [Virginia] plant included in the GD100?

Tanaka:  Yes, most of our subsidiaries have plants based on GD100 plans.


Question:  Did [outgoing YTC President] Takao Oishi brief you on living and working in the U.S. and about the American marketplace for YTC?

Tanaka:  Yes, before coming to America I talked to Mr. Oishi. We still talk regularly on the telephone. His advice was to do what I think is best for YTC. Currently, I’m focusing on suitable procedures for YTC. The company has its own systems and mechanisms, and some need updating so the company will be even more modern and efficient.

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