Carlos Ghosn says Nissan and Renault will grow closer as Nissan gets stronger.
Renault last year bought 37 percent of Nissan and sent Ghosn and several other executives to Japan to lead Nissan's turnaround. The two companies have not merged but Ghosn, Nissan's president, says a deeper alliance is inevitable.
Ghosn spoke with Automotive News Europe reporter Stephane Farhi.
Today, Renault and Nissan are two distinct companies. How will the relationship evolve in the future?
The present organization appears to be the best one to produce synergies. But it may not be the best one forever.
Today, people from Renault and Nissan are focused on the Nissan Recovery Plan. The day that we are sure of its success we will need to have a vision for the future of the alliance.
Eventually, will there be a Renault-Nissan group?
I think so, yes. We must have very distinct brand identities, but we also must have a cooperative and interdependent approach to face an increasingly global market and fierce competition.
In western Europe, Renault and Nissan are clearly in the process of merging manufacturing, purchasing, marketing and sales organizations. Is this a laboratory for the future?
It's a laboratory because Europe is a common market for both companies. Nissan is present in the USA where Renault is not, and Nissan is in Japan and Asia where Renault has only a small presence. Nissan is strong in the Middle East, while Renault is the dominant brand in North Africa and South America.
Will Nissan merge manufacturing operations with Renault in Europe sooner than planned?
It's a natural evolution. We have started to talk about common platforms. Today we have none; in 2010 we'll have 10. Most Renault and Nissan products will be based on those 10 platforms.
When you say common platforms, you also mean common manufacturing. So all Nissan or Renault plants making vehicles based on the same platform will become common facilities gradually. We won't go any faster than we initially planned.
What car platform will be built at Nissan's plant in Sunderland, England? Sunderland currently builds models from three different platforms - the Micra, Almera and Primera. Will you build the next Micra in Sunderland?
Two questions have to be answered. In the case of the Micra, will the European Union allow subsidies? Second, is the euro-sterling exchange rate predictable?
Everything about the Sunderland plant itself is positive - productivity, work force skills, involvement of the management.
We are still evaluating the situation. We want the euro-sterling exchange rate to be stable. We are worried because we see the UK industrial base vanishing. A number of our suppliers are leaving the UK.
Are you you considering closing Sunderland?
No. The only question is where will we make the Micra. But later, when a second model must be renewed, the same question will arise again.
Are you worried by the decline in Nissan sales in Japan?
Production is stable in Japan, while our global production is rising, thanks to the US and European markets.
In Japan, Nissan sales from April to September decreased 9 percent compared with the same period in 1999. It's not surprising, but it's a poor result. I had modest expectations for the first half because we did not launch any new models.
Nissan's recovery in Japan is a top priority. In 2000 and 2001 we must fight to keep our market share. In 2002 we will launch a counter offensive thanks to new products, a more efficient cost structure, a reshaped dealer network and a new marketing policy. Nissan has lost ground in Japan for 26 years, from 35 percent [market share] to 17-18 percent now.
What market share are you targeting in Japan?
We have a target but I won't disclose it. In 2002, Nissan should regain market share in Japan.