TOKYO MOTOR SHOW: Ghosn: Down market won't hurt revival plan

TOKYO - Japan's Nissan Motor Co. said on Monday it was confident it would be able to achieve the goals of its revitalisation plan earlier than forecast despite a worse than expected operating environment in 2001/02. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told an automotive conference that although 2001 and 2002 would be more challenging than anyone could have imagined a year ago, Nissan was on track to meet the targets of its mid-term restructuring plan, the Nissan Revival Plan.

"It's true that adverse market conditions and heightened competitive pressure will make our advance a little bit more difficult," Ghosn told the Nikkei Business Tokyo International Automotive Conference.

"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.

Ghosn reiterated that he planned to stay at Nissan until its revival was complete, but voiced confidence that there was plenty of talent within the company to ensure its long-term viability.

"We have plenty of talents inside of Nissan, and I am not stressed at all by the fact that each one of us has a limited time in the job," he said.

"At the time that I will have to move to something else, I will have no difficulty selecting somebody...who will be able to lead Nissan for the next challenges."

Ghosn said it was highly probable his successor would be Japanese.

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