Managing director Nissan SA and president region Africa South
Mike Whitfield is the managing director of Nissan South Africa and also heads up the company’s Africa South regional business unit, which covers Sub Saharan Africa. The unit was created in 2013 to support Nissan’s Midterm Plan and Growth strategy, a key focus which is growth in Africa. The continent is split into two business regions: Africa-South, operated out of South Africa; and Africa-North operated out of Egypt.
Whitfield is responsible for capitalising on the opportunity that Africa presents and building on an existing well-developed strategy in Sub Saharan Africa, where Nissan has been active for many years. Key focus countries in North Africa include Egypt, Algeria and Morocco while in Sub Saharan Africa, fast-growing markets comprise Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa; Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in East Africa; and Angola and the well-established South African market in Southern Africa.
Whitfield has extensive experience in the automotive industry. He joined Nissan in 1981 as a marketing trainee, giving him exposure to all parts of the business. This was prior to his promotion to advertising coordinator. Whitfield followed this with a stint as district sales manager for the then Southern Transvaal, responsible for all dealer activities.
Between 1987 and 1988, Whitfield went on to hold positions of product manager for passenger vehicles and advertising manager. His leadership skills first came to prominence when he became head of Nissan’s Kwa-Zulu Natal region. This was followed by his appointment as director of Nissan’s heavy vehicle division in 1993, responsible for a wide portfolio in Nissan’s diesel business unit. This included manufacturing, human resources, engineering, purchasing, sales and marketing, and finance.
By 1999, Whitfield had been appointed director sales and marketing for Nissan SA, responsible for National Sales Companies and after-marketing activities. Six years later he took up a foreign posting when he was asked to set up Nissan operations in Northern Europe, where he was MD Nissan Nordic Europe. Whitfield returned to South Africa as MD for Nissan SA in 2008.
During his extensive career in the automotive industry, he has become known for his strong leadership skills and wide industry knowledge.
Presently Mike is the president of AAAM (Association of African Automobile Manufacturers) and NAAMSA (National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa) which is an important source of information about the motor industry in sub-Saharan Africa. After 50 years of being the official body representing new vehicle manufacturers, it is now going through major changes in line with the transformation of the industry. The NAAMSA membership base now includes major importers and distributors of new vehicles as well as local manufacturers and assemblers, making it the pre-eminent organisation for all franchise holders marketing vehicles in South Africa.
Whitfield is married and lives in Johannesburg.