Interview with Itochu Corporation’s President Amid Concerns from New Company’s Frontline | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Interview with Itochu Corporation’s President Amid Concerns from New Company’s Frontline

The new company, which relaunched as "WECARS" on May 1, is still piled with problems.

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
Itochu’s President, Mr. Ishii, Pauses for an Interview with FRIDAY. Emphasizes Multiple Times That “WECARS” Has No Connection with the Founding Family

“Big Motor” has begun anew. On May 1st, Itochu Corporation and two other companies announced the establishment of a new company, “WECARS,” taking over the operations of the former. The management team, composed mainly of former Itochu employees including President Shinjiro Tanaka (61), has swept aside those from the Big Motor era. However, all of the over 4,000 frontline employees and approximately 250 nationwide stores have been retained.

“The intense quotas have been completely abolished. Consequently, the annual income for store managers, which could reach up to 40 million yen, may now not even reach 10 million yen. On the other hand, customer footfall has yet to return. After the turmoil, it plummeted to about one-tenth and has gradually been recovering, but the situation remains tough.” (Maintenance worker at a store in Western Japan)

In addition to the dwindling customer base, there’s a fear among frontline employees. That is, the possibility of a culture of harassment being perpetuated in the new company. Even after the resignation of the founding family members, former President Hiroyuki Kaneshige (72) and his son, former Vice President Koichi Kaneshige (35), in July last year, Big Motor retained a culture of disregarding compliance.

A former employee who worked at a store in Eastern Japan was repeatedly subjected to verbal abuse insulting his wife. The wife herself spoke to the press.

“Last summer, colleagues of my husband posted my photo on the store’s group chat. They said, ‘She’s a wrecked car.’ I was called fat, ugly, and even trash-like woman. After I got pregnant, they even said, ‘I’ll make you miscarry.’ Such harassment continued, and eventually, my husband quit the company. I also developed depression due to the verbal abuse during a sensitive period of pregnancy.”

The man’s wife reported the situation to Big Motor’s consultation office and requested an investigation. However, the response received from the company last fall was that “no harassment was confirmed.” The man’s wife expressed her anger, saying, “I wanted a direct apology. I can’t accept them just running away from it.” The employees who engaged in harassment will, of course, be transferred to the new company.

Prior to the establishment of the new company, at the end of April, there were reports of violent acts such as stabbing other employees’ ears with a ballpoint pen and embezzlement suspicions, where over 600 company items were listed on Mercari, earning over 2 million yen.

A sales employee at a store in Eastern Japan continued.

“Even the person who was referred to as the number one dog, a close associate of former Vice President Koichi, is still employed as a store manager. Whether they can transform into individuals who prioritize compliance in the new company remains a question.”

Compliance Measures Unknown

Itochu Corporation made a break from the founding family its top condition for the acquisition. Indeed, in the new company, the founding family does not own any shares. The handling of victims from the Big Motor era will be conducted by the remaining company, “BALM.” To provide compensation, the internal reporting system and the rewards and punishments committee, which have existed since the Big Motor era, have been strengthened. However, how effectively these mechanisms will function remains uncertain. Automotive lifestyle journalist Kumiko Kato explains:

“Even after the turmoil, harassment within Big Motor has not disappeared. Since the new company’s establishment, the internal reporting office has been flooded with complaints, and several employees have been dismissed. However, aside from embezzlement and other wrongdoings with visible evidence, it’s unlikely that a thorough purge will progress. Investigating the realities of harassment is difficult. How deep can they delve into this issue?

To drive a change in employee awareness, over 50 dispatched employees from Itochu have joined the frontline. However, there are significant doubts about whether they, with little experience in used car sales, can effectively communicate with veteran employees who have thrived under the Kaneshige family’s regime.”

How does the key figure in the acquisition drama view the concerns from the frontlines? FRIDAY directly interviewed Keita Ishii, President of Itochu Corporation (63).

—There are still complaints about power harassment. Are the measures sufficient?

“We’re going to address that from now on. It will be fine. It will be fine.”

—Over 4,000 employees are transferring.

“It will be fine. Or rather, we will make it fine. At ‘WECARS.'”

—Can we assume a complete break from the founding family?

“It’s just a separate company. We only know about ‘WECARS.'”

—Have you met with the Kaneshige family?

“I’ve never met them. Not even the son.”

President Ishii paused to answer the interview questions politely before getting into his transport vehicle and leaving.

The name of the new company embodies the resolve to contribute to the future of everyone involved with cars. Can they uphold this belief and correct the distortions created by Big Motor?

A company has also been established to investigate and compensate for the fraud committed by Big Motor. Kaneshige and his son do not own shares in this company either.
Former Vice President Koichi is said to have rooted the fraudulent nature of the company. He continues to hide behind a cloud even now that the Big Motor name has disappeared from the world.

From the May 24, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Takero Shigumura (1st photo) Shinji Hasuo (2nd photo)

Photo Gallery3 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles