For an executive such as Carlos Ghosn, who thrives on challenges, the automotive industry has provided a never-ending "to-do" list. When the Renault Group CEO stepped on to the podium in Paris during the automaker's financial results conference earlier this year, he emphasized that Renault had met the targets of its Drive the Change strategic plan a year early. "We achieved record growth. We achieved record profitability, and we have a record cash position," he said.
Even as he spoke, major changes were about to happen. Within weeks of releasing Renault's numbers Ghosn announced he would step down as CEO of Renault's Japanese partner, Nissan, to focus on the two companies' alliance. Then, on March 6, Renault's French rival, PSA Group, announced it was buying Opel/Vauxhall from General Motors, creating a joint company that would eclipse Renault in European auto sales. Experts, however, don't expect either change to throw Ghosn off course. "He loves a challenge and gets bored when things are going too well," said Miguel Rivas-Micoud, a consultant and educator in Japan who collaborated with Ghosn on a book about business strategies.
Debating the question of when Ghosn, 63, will step down from his other roles as CEO of Renault and the Renault-Nissan alliance, which also includes Russia's AvtoVAZ and Japan's Mitsubishi, has been a longtime favorite of industry watchers -- but now is probably not the time, analysts said, especially since Ghosn has so much left to accomplish.
This autumn, Ghosn will unveil a successor to Renault's Drive the Change plan. Under the old strategy, group revenues increased to 51.2 billion euros last year from 39 billion euros in 2010 and the operating margin rose to 6.4 percent from 2.8 percent during the same period. Ghosn already revealed two of his next targets for Renault: revenues of 70 billion euros and an operating margin of at least 7 percent by 2022.