NEW YORK -- Google, Apple and other super-rich tech companies should not be feared as auto industry disrupters, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says.
They should be embraced.
“There’s been a lot of talk about disruption, about new competitors who promise a new approach to what a car can be,” Ghosn told an industry audience at the kickoff of the New York auto show today. “Much of this unease over potential disruption has resulted from the rapid emergence of new technologies and so-called mobility services.”
Ghosn argued that tech giants such as Apple, which is now developing autonomous-drive vehicle technology, do not want to be automakers because the profit potential is too small.
Instead, Silicon Valley companies will prefer to be suppliers of high-value-added, high-profit tech solutions to existing automakers, he predicted.
“I don’t think we’re headed this way,” he said of the prospects of having to compete someday against cars from Google or Apple.
Those companies are now wealthy enough to buy automakers outright if they choose to become carmakers, Ghosn assured the audience.
“They could have done it already.”
Ghosn urged the industry to embrace innovative newcomers.
“Three forces -- electrification, autonomous drive and connectivity -- are about to change our industry in ways we are only beginning to imagine,” he said.
“But rather than fear the disruption, I believe our industry really has no choice but to embrace it,” he said. “I expect the global auto industry to see more changes in the next five years than it has in the last 50.
“Rather than fear tech companies’ interest, I see this new competition as healthy for our industry. We have a lot to learn from them, and they have much to learn from us.”
Meanwhile, Ghosn said he thinks auto industry sales will outpace industry forecasts in the United States and Europe this year.
"Everyone is below the reality," Ghosn said. "I think the market will be stronger than forecast -- both in Europe and in the United States."
He predicted U.S. industry sales will rise around 2 percent for the overall U.S. market.
Several auto industry forecasters predict 2016 U.S. auto sales will be 17.8 million vehicles, which would break the record set in 2015 of nearly 17.5 million.
Reuters contributed to this report.