Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche are as attuned as anyone to the importance of diversity. As a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry in charge of the French-Japanese alliance, Ghosn has parlayed it into a competitive edge. Zetsche, a Turkish-born German who successfully ran America’s third-largest carmaker before taking charge at one of Germany’s most important brands also has benefited from a rich mix of international experiences.
Therefore, it is perhaps appropriate that Ghosn and Zetsche, whose automakers have a fast-growing global alliance, appear equally motivated to empower women at their companies. The reasons are economic and altruistic. Daimler estimates that in Germany 32 percent of car buyers are women. Breaking the numbers down further, Daimler said that 20 percent of the people who purchased a Mercedes-Benz or Smart model in Germany in 2014 were female and that figure was nearly double in the United States. Zetsche has even compared the growth of female car buyers to that of the growth of China.
Daimler and Renault-Nissan are determined to tap this growth. Daimler created its Global Diversity Office in 2005. Nissan established its Diversity Development Office in 2004. The goal of all three was to bring more women into the fold from product planning to production to sales.
“What women are looking for in a car is very different,” Ghosn says. “If you don’t pay attention to those features, you end up having a customer base which is mainly male … Who is going to pay attention to this? Female designers, female marketers, female engineers. It’s mandatory to make sure the car is going to come with attributes pleasing women.”