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Ghosn: Successor to be Japanese

TOKYO. Oct. 22 — Nissan Motor Co. President Carlos Ghosn said there is a "high probability" his successor will be a Japanese.

Answering questions after a speech at the Tokyo International Automotive Conference, organized by Nikkei Business with the cooperation of Automotive News Group, Ghosn said, "I'm not stressed at all" over the prospect of finding a qualified successor.

"There is no problem to find a successor," he said. "At the time I have to move on to something else, I and the board will be able to find someone."

Previously, Ghosn has said he would stay through the implementation of the current Nissan Revival Plan, which runs to March 2003, as well as the successful implementation of the following "180 Plan." That effectively implies that he would remain at Nissan until 2005, which is roughly when Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer will be ready to retire.

Each number in the "180 Plan" stands for part of that plan's goals:

"1" for the 1 million additional unit sales worldwide that Nissan targets,

"8" for the approximately 8 percent operating margin that Nissan estimates will be needed to achieve its target of being among the tops in the industry in that category, and

"0" for zero debt.

Ghosn also said on Monday he is confident Nissan will be able to achieve the goals of its revitalisation plan earlier than forecast despite a worse than expected operating environment in 2001/02.

"It's true that adverse market conditions and heightened competitive pressure will make our advance a little bit more difficult," Ghosn said.

"But I feel confident that the basic commitments of the NRP will all be achieved, and probably before the limit that we set for ourself, which is March 2003."

Ghosn said Japan's second-largest automaker would still be able to meet its profit and debt reduction goals regardless of competitive pressures and adverse market conditions.

Nissan, in which France's Renault SA took a 37 percent stake in May 1999, last week defied weak sales and economic doldrums to forecast a rise to record operating and net profit for the half-year ended September, as the cost-cutting efforts of its revival plan hit home.

The company also said last week it was well ahead in its debt reduction plans, and would aim to cut its debt to 750 billion yen ($6.19 billion) by the end of March, 100 billion yen below its initial target.

However, it said recent market uncertainty had kept it from revising up its net and operating profit forecasts for the full year to next March.

Reuters contributed to this report

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com

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