Ian Gibson, the new president of Nissan Europe, talked about his future plans for the company with Diana T. Kurylko of Automotive News Europe.
Both Renault and Nissan are strong in Europe. How will the tie-up between the two companies affect your European operations?
Europe is a little different compared to other regions, as it is the only area where we are both strong. For example, Renault has a small-to-zero presence in the USA and Japan. In Europe, Renault has a major presence - and Nissan is strong as well. So our relationship here will be different than in the rest of the world. Here we are both competitors and collaborators. Elsewhere in the world we are mainly collaborators. In Europe, we have to find a way for us both to keep growing market share and presence. In many ways, that is not true in any other part of the world.
How will you work with Renault now that it has part-ownership of Nissan?
Globally, a number of cross-company teams will begin looking at the two businesses in June. There will be teams, for example, looking at the USA and Europe.
They will study many aspects of the business - such as powertrains, components, market presence and purchasing strategy. They will look at opportunities and prioritize them - and establish where we can achieve things fastest.
What are the strengths Nissan can bring to Renault?
Manufacturing and working with suppliers to improve quality are generally Nissan strengths worldwide, and particularly in Europe. We have been the biggest Japanese brand here for more than 20 years. We have more history and presence here than the other non-European brands. We have more equity in Europe, which is reflected, for example, in the fact that we have greater design capabilities here than other Japanese.
Will you consider joint manufacturing in Europe?
I wouldn't put joint manufacturing high on the agenda.
Because you're both close to capacity?
Yes. Renault is close to full capacity with the successful Megane. In the longer term, we will look at things like product and platform sharing, and areas of the business where one of us isn't strongly represented.
Will you combine purchasing?
It is definitely one of the things we will start looking at. It has to be fairly high on the agenda.
Will any existing platform be shared with Renault?
In the short term, no. In the medium term, one of our strengths globally is 4x4 expertise. As Renault has no experience with 4x4 technology, this is an area where we would pair our businesses.
Aren't you direct competitors in Europe?
In the B and C segments, we are competitors. In the D segment and higher and in specialist vehicles we tend to be placed in different sectors. It is interesting to look at the type of customers Nissan and Renault attract - and how they differ geographically. We don't overlap much.
Renault is concentrated in southern Europe and Nissan in the north?
Broadly, yes. Renault is clearly a major player in France and Spain and has smaller shares elsewhere. Historically, we tend to be stronger in northern Europe.
The Almera Tino compact minivan coming next year will compete with Renault's Megane Scenic. Will you halt plans for the Tino?
No. It is an area where we both believe we can grow share.
Have you canceled plans for a larger minivan based on the Almera?
No. About six months ago this car - along with other projects - was put on hold. We did that for a couple of reasons. Because of our debt load we wanted to delay the investment until we were certain. And secondly, looking at recent market trends in Europe, we had to debate whether we wanted to gamble on a D-class minivan.
Is it still on hold or will you let it die?
It is still on hold. When we got to the stage of concluding the alliance back in March we decided it was foolish to make these decisions until we had a better view of the future.
How will you differ from your predecessors as president of Nissan Europe?
I am a European - and that means I have a different perception of the industry, and will have a different relationship (with Japan). I have been looking after big areas of Europe for the past 15 years. The organization is more familiar with me than it could ever be with a newcomer from outside the company. It is a sign that Nissan is becoming more of a multinational company, and a more mature company in Europe.