NEW YORK -- Carlos Ghosn refuses to say the words "I told you so." But you know he's thinking it.
For almost a decade, Ghosn has been the industry's biggest cheerleader for electric vehicles — predicting their rise, touting the logic of their technology and suffering all the slings and arrows of critics who said he was wrong.
Ahead of his competitors, Ghosn bullishly invested $5 billion in 2010 and 2011 to build mass-market EV assembly lines and battery plants in the U.S., Europe and Japan for the two automakers he oversaw, Nissan Motor and Renault.
Many in the industry shrugged off EV technology, saying consumers weren't interested. But now, automakers from BMW to Volkswagen are scrambling to electrify their vehicle portfolios. Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Daimler, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo all have revealed big EV product plans in recent months.
"Now they come," Ghosn quips of the growing industry trend. "Everybody's coming. The reality appears more clearly to a lot of people today."
Ghosn in September unveiled a six-year business plan for the newly renamed Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, of which he is CEO, to create 12 electric models worldwide.
The 12 will be jointly developed by the alliance and sold through Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi brands. And many more models will follow those, he hints during an interview last week at the alliance's Manhattan offices.
Early to market
But Ghosn believes his group has an advantage over the competitors now following him into the EV space: The alliance companies have been at it longer, with the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe in mass production since 2010 and 2012.
"The knowledge we have today with the Leaf or the Zoe is extremely precious," Ghosn says, "because we know how people use electric cars, what they need and what are the problems. This will allow us to prepare a much better generation of electric cars coming in the next six years.