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Growth la Ghosn:
Product excitement with fair competition

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan and Renault President and CEO.

Ghosn, once nicknamed "le cost killer", is proving again and again that success can be collectively shared, and worldwide.

Bechara Aboul-Nasr,
2 November 2007.

It seemed recently as if the phenomenal growth that distinguished Nissan's recovery from its late nineties nightmares, reached its peak and can only enter now an era of mature, moderate, if not to say modest growth.

But a second look at the Renault-Nissan alliance plans, and specifically at the declared plans of its energetic President and CEO, the Lebanese-origin Carlos Ghosn, shows now a new round of exceptional growth, just about to bring new fruits for both companies.

Besides the continuing products renewal on both Renault and Nissan fronts, Ghosn isn't resting on the laurels of Renault's very successful low cost Logan. Just after the latter started spreading into plants all over the world, here is the new Ghosn challenge: an Indian made car to be sold under the US$3,000 tag. Ghosn  talks about a feasible US$2,500 dollars car in India from 2010, and that's with profit. For as he put it in Tokyo few days ago, what's the point of making a cheap car only to sell it at loss? Anybody can do it, but only up to a certain time. However, not everybody can earn money from such a cheap car.

Are Carlos Ghosn's targets crazy? The man is familiar with the word. It was murmured quite loudly when he took the challenge of reviving Nissan a bit less than a decade ago!

In fact, the <2,500 or <3,000 U.S. dollars car is not just about volume. For Ghosn, it is also and especially the best way to compete with the emerging Asian automakers in China and India.

Precisely, instead of repeating the costly American and European under-estimation of the Japanese advances in the sixties, before the ineffective opposition to these advances since the eighties, followed by the similar early under-estimating attitude of the Japanese as well as the Westerners vis--vis the Koreans, Ghosn approach tackles the coming Chinese and Indian competition with the core of its argument: low cost.

2008 GT-R, a new image booster for Nissan.

2008 Nissan GT-R, a new image booster with supercar specs.

No nationalistic slogans, no protection nostalgia. Play their own game, and most importantly, play it fair. Give and take, live and let live, with plants assembling Alliance products in East as well as Western Europe, in the Americas, in Asia and Africa.

Meanwhile, Renault is not just watching at all. The French carmaker is unfolding a new wave of products, with the new Laguna representing the emblem of the new quality commitment, in addition to the expansion of its Romanian Dacia and South Korean Samsung brands around the globe. The product portfolio for the growth commitment declared last February, calls for an annual 800,000 units sales growth by 2009, compared to 2005. That makes 3.3 million units per year, with a operating profit margin growth from 2.5% last year, to 6% in 2009.

Nissan NV200 concept: a new concept of professional vans.

Nissan NV200 concept: re-inventing the professional van.

On the Nissan side, the first half of fiscal year 2007 (ends on March 31st 2008) marked a 6.3% sales growth to 1.816 million units worldwide, with an operating profit growth of 5.3%, to US$3.08 billion. Many other manufacturers would like to be in such a position.

But what strikes more, or differently at Nissan is not just the models renewal. The change seems to be taking an even bolder logic. Looking at the Pivo 2, NV200 and Round Box concept cars, Nissan is not just showing new technologies, but a new way of thinking and using cars, a really new interface with the user, not simply in an instrument panel from here or a new navigation system from there, but on the whole car itself, inside-out.

Nissan Round Box concept car

Round Box concept: another approach for a funny small car.

Take the Pivo 2 example. It is more than just a new electric concept car. It is a new way of driving ahead, sidewise or even backwards without a reverse gear, without axles and shafts, all in a completely different looking body and cabin, with a completely new concept of communication and... a mood guessing Robotic Agent (RA) on the cake. The concept is not for tomorrow, but it is not just for the fun of making it either.

Nissan Pivo 2 concept car.

Pivo 2: drives ahead, sidewise or backwards without reversing.

Take now the usually boring commercial van concept. Can you imagine it exciting? Well, look now at the Nissan NV200. This is really re-inventing the professional van concept, making it a desirable object even if you have always hated vans!

Yes, the "re-invention" term has been too exploited even with minor innovations. But here, the NV200 cannot be described otherwise: it's a van which doubles into a moving toolbox, with an office and all computer and communication tools, for a 21st century professional, be it a photographer, a plumber, a scientist, or even a mobile doctor or mechanic. Quite far from the vans we know, isn't it?

There is also the Round Box and the Intima, as well as the icing on the cake: the new GT-R supercar which will hit first the Japanese roads in December, then the rest of the world next year.

Judging by Carlos Ghosn's plans and results, the man who was once nicknamed the "cost killer" is just proving again and again that winning is not necessarily a one-way domination avenue. Success can be collectively shared.

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