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3/14/2011-New Yuasa CEO building bridges

March 14, 2011
Filed under Features

The new chairman and CEO of Yuasa Battery, Inc. of North America refers to it as a “bridge.”
That’s the important connection between the battery manufacturer’s North American operations and its parent company’s home office in Japan.
“You have to really listen to people in order to move ahead,” Hitoshi Ohta said in an exclusive interview with Powersports Business.
When Ohta arrived last fall, he talked to many Yuasa employees and “asked a lot of pointed questions,” said Joe Majesky, the company’s director of sales.
As a result, some changes were made, including the promotion of Bruce Ash to vice president of sales and marketing.
“My biggest responsibility is to foster an environment where people can be open and honest,” Ohta said. “I truly feel that way.”
Ohta has worked to improve Japanese-North American “bridges” in the past, having worked with a couple of Japanese-based global companies in both countries. Most of his career was spent with Minolta (now Konica Minolta), working on the sales and marketing side of a very technical part of the company that sold color meters. He later became involved with Minolta’s executive team by working directly with one of its senior directors.
Through that experience and others, Ohta has learned the value of getting input and direction from employees throughout an entire organization to understand the whole picture.
“I wish for people to lead themselves. Not just me. For it to happen, people need to feel comfortable to speak freely and to know they are listened to,” Ohta said. “Internal bridges should be in place all over. Creating such an environment is an essential responsibility for everybody, but it has to start with me.”
Looking Ahead
Yuasa, a longtime leader in OEM powersports batteries, has been impacted by the recent recession. “We are very involved at the original equipment level and have a lot of focus in that area. We would like to see that grow back,” Majesky said.
The company remains committed to improving battery technology as it works to ensure its product can power the increasing number of accessories that are being added to touring motorcycles and other powersports vehicles.
What about lithium batteries, a power source for some electric vehicles coming to market?
Ohta noted Yuasa already manufactures lithium ion batteries in Japan for different applications, including hybrid cars and applications in space programs. How quickly price points can be reduced to accommodate powersports consumers remains to be seen, Yuasa officials said.
In the meantime, Ohta will maintain and reinforce those important bridges by ensuring proper communication throughout Yuasa’s staff. “It is an essential element required for our continued growth,” Ash said. PSB

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