Nissan Motor was slow to make a full-scale entry into what has become the world's largest auto market: China. We had been there for 30 years and produced Nissan's first Cedric model for the Chinese market. But it was in 2000 that we started to realize the true opportunities. At the time, there were 1.2 billion people in China buying only 2 million cars a year. That's 10 cars per 1,000 inhabitants. In Japan, there were 600 cars being sold per 1,000 inhabitants. At a certain point, the Chinese market was going to boom.
Toyota Motor and Honda Motor had already made their moves into China in the 1990s, but because of Nissan's necessary restructuring, our plans had been delayed. But there were plans. In February 2000, just before the Nissan Revival Plan was launched, I met with Toshiyuki Shiga, who was in charge of corporate planning (he would later become chief operating officer) and told him to start preparing plans to expand into China. The market was still in its infancy, but we knew the potential it represented.