Proton is on a mission to improve the production quality of its vehicles – an important aspect in light of its newfound partnership and future goals. In February 2016, Masazumi Ogawa joined as director of quality at Proton, bringing with him over 30 years of work experience during his time at Nissan.

Now, we’re being introduced to Yoshiya Inamori, who joins the national carmaker as its new vice president of manufacturing. Like Ogawa, Inamori also spent a considerable amount of time working at a Japanese carmaker, in this case, Mitsubishi from April 1982 until July, 2017 (more than 35 years).

A graduate (Mechanical Engineering for Production) from the Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, Inamori began his career as an assembly engineer at Mitsubishi Motors Corporation’s (MMC) Nagoya plant, where he was in charge of new product launches.

This involved planning processes for vehicles in production, drawing up specifications, ordering and setting up production equipment, as well as developing a production system programme.

In 1989, he moved to the United States to serve as coordinator of assembly engineering department at the Diamond-Star Motors (DSM) plant in Illinois. Following a four-year stint there, he returned to Nagoya in 1993, and remained there till 2005.

His task then was to manage the consolidation of the plant’s Production Engineering function into one place at Okazaki. This allowed for better communications and workflow, as the R&D facility was much closer. He also enhanced the security at the Nagoya plant.

From 2005 to 2009, he took on the role of vice president of purchasing for the Mitsubishi plant in the Netherlands. He oversaw a cost-reduction exercise and created an improvement programme for production effectiveness at the plant.

Inamori returned to Japan, again, in 2009, to be the chief officer of Russian Project in Mitsubishi. It’s at this point he initiated cross functional teams (CFT) in MMC to harmonise commercial and logistics flow among Japan, France and Russia for SKD production in Russia.

Following that, he assumed the position of vice president of PCMA Rus, a joint venture company between Peugeot and MMC in Russia. This involved managing the plant’s overall operations, along with training 3,000 inexperienced employees.

His time in Russia wasn’t smooth sailing either, as an economic sanction resulting from the Ukranian Crisis in 2014 reduced the plant’s output volume. Inamori was forced to reduce the number of employees in the plant, operating a lean plant and turning it profitable again in 2017.

As Proton and Mitsubishi have had dealings in the past, this isn’t Inamori’s first time in Malaysia, having worked with Proton about 23 years ago for about three months to install new equipment for the production assembly of a new product then.

“I prefer working in foreign countries, because I’ve been working in foreign countries for many years. Of course, for me, working in Japan is okay, but I am now 59 years old, and as you can see my resume, I have worked for Mitsubishi for a long time, 35 years. If I continue again in Mitsubishi, I’m going to reach the retirement age.”

“Usually, in Japan, when we come to retirement age, most (people) work in Japan, but I still really want to challenge some new things. In order to challenge, I work in foreign countries, it’s better for me. When I get some suggestions from the headhunting company, I decided to work in Proton Malaysia,” he replied when asked if he preferred working outside Japan.

On a more personal note, Inamori speaks three languages – English, Japanese and Russian – although we didn’t get a chance to hear the last two during a short interview session with the man. He’s also a tennis player and knows how to play an acoustic guitar.