TOKYO - Beleagured Nissan Motor Co. is looking for partners, according to a senior executive.
'It's our policy to seek global tie-ups and partners, if doing so will increase our competitiveness,' said Tetsuo Tabata, Nissan executive vice president in charge of overseas operations.
He explained the search in terms of sharing costs. 'It will become increasingly difficult for us to go it alone in developing the technology' to deal with stiffer environmental and other regulations, Tabata said.
'I'm only too aware that even big and strong companies like Daimler and Chrysler needed to get together,' he added.
Nissan, though big, is not strong. It is forecasting a loss in the current fiscal year, its sixth in the last seven years. Its debt-to-equity ratio stands at about 350 percent, according to analyst Chris Richter of HSBC Securities Japan Ltd.
That has raised speculation about Nissan's ability to remain independent.
Hiroshi Okuda, Toyota Motor Corp. president, said, 'Nissan may have to join with another company, but whether a foreign or Japanese company remains to be seen.'
Nissan faces problems in most of its main markets around the world.
Its sales in Japan continue to limp along with those of the entire industry. A 16 percent industry-wide drop in November sales - excluding minivehicles, which Nissan does not make - was especially discouraging because the drop came against a particularly weak November 1997.
In the United States, 'Nissan performed very badly, especially last year,' Tabata admitted. It was hurt by losses on leases from prior years and by the costs of redesigning the Altima and the company's small pickup truck at the same time.
Nissan's U.S. unit sales so far this year are about even with 1997, but the company's performance has been improving since July and leases are 'not rising anymore,' Tabata said. In 1999, he said, Nissan would seek better profits, not higher volumes.