By - Frederick Hiroshi Katayama

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Since becoming president of Nissan Motor two years ago, Yutaka Kume, 66, has brought a new spirit to a company long burdened with a bureaucratic culture and a falling market share. For example, he has told top managers to get out of their offices and spend half their time sitting alongside the executives they oversee. The company's squarish, stodgy cars are yielding to stylish new models, and its Pulsar series won the coveted 1986-87 Japanese Car of the Year award last December from a jury of Japan's leading auto writers. Kume is driven by ''the spirit of hunger,'' says novelist Daikichi Terauchi, a childhood friend. He was the seventh of nine children; his father was an unsuccessful merchant in Tokyo. After earning a degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Tokyo, he served as an engineer at a navy dockyard during World War II. He joined Nissan in 1946 and rose through plant engineering before becoming executive vice president in charge of R&D and corporate planning in 1983. To boost Nissan's domestic market share, which slipped from 32% to 25% over the past decade, Kume is transferring some 5,000 administrative and technical employees to sales outlets. Besides selling, he wants them to learn more about what buyers want. His father failed in business partly because ''he would forget his customers,'' he says. The son intends to make no such mistake.