Tire Pioneer Tomo Mizutani Shares Keys to Success

Tomo Mizutani, chairman and CEO of Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc., visited LMU on April 15 for a talk titled “Unconventional Strategy Delivers Remarkable Results: The Story of Nitto Tire: a Japanese brand, raised in America” as part of the Center for Asian Business D.K. Kim Lecture Series.

In what Mizutani refers to as the “magnificent decade,” he explained the unconventional methods that allowed Nitto to experience a 300% market growth rate from 2008 to 2018. Nitto was previously at risk of shutting down due to lack of sales and interest. However, because of Mizutani’s determination and persistence, he was able to transform the company into one of the most successful in the industry.

One factor that contributed to the company’s success was an emphasis on consumer emotion. He wanted to move his audience in a way that compelled them to purchase Nitto’s tires not only because they were the best quality, but because they believed in the company and what it stood for. In order to build a passionate fan base, Mizutani had to be just as passionate. “To succeed, find the intersection of what you love and what you’re good at,” he said.

He also talked about the importance of trends in building a successful business. While most companies focus on following or keeping up with trends, Mizutani says the key is to stay ahead of them. He believes taking advantage of technology and utilizing it to predict and set trends is the most effective method for helping a company to prosper.

With Nitto specifically, Mizutani focused on youth and youth culture as his primary target because their minds are most malleable and passionate. In the American car industry, there was a growing movement toward the import and modification of Japanese sports cars, or tuners. Knowing this, Mizutani took advantage by marketing his Japanese brand tires as the optimal choice for tuners.

From there, he methodically began to take over other tire markets one by one. After imports, Nitto turned to domestic car brands like Mustang, then to niches like luxury cars and off-road vehicles. As a result, after 10 years of continuous effort, Nitto is now one of the most prosperous tire companies in America with over $600 million in annual sales in 2018.

Mizutani closed with: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

Written by LMU student Gavin Toy.