LOS ANGELES - Nissan North America Inc. soon will be given more power over product development and design, said Carlos Ghosn, the new COO of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
The heads of Nissan's U.S. r&d and design operations are crucial players in saving Nissan, Ghosn said. They are Shigeo Ishida, president of Nissan Research & Development Inc. in Farmington Hills, Mich., and Jerry Hirshberg, president of Nissan Design International Inc. near San Diego.
Ishida and Hirshberg, Ghosn said, are 'responsible for all the cars that are being sold in the U.S., whether they are developed in the U.S. or Japan. They are responsible for their success, or if there is a problem.'
With that responsibility will come autonomy, the ability to make more decisions on their own instead of checking with Japan.
ENCOURAGED BY XTERRA
Ghosn, in a meeting with journalists here, said he was encouraged by the early success of the Xterra sport-utility, which was designed and developed almost entirely in America.
'The new Xterra is creating good vibrations inside Nissan. Young people are talking about it. It is part of the Nissan we want to intensify. We need to do more of this kind of product,' he said.
Ghosn added that the Z sports car is in development and that product planners, engineers and designers still are hammering out its exact mission. It is slated to arrive in spring 2002. Renault products will not be sold as Nissans in the United States until they can be developed from the start with the purpose of serving both brands.
Ghosn, who joined Nissan in June after Renault SA's purchase of 36.8 percent of the Japanese company, said Nissan North America has more potential than he initially thought. He referred to such areas as developing new products, enhancing the efficiency of dealers, reducing costs and cutting delivery times.
'There's a lot of raw material to make effective our revival plan for Nissan. The profit figures and objectives will be higher (and sooner) than I had in mind in the beginning,' Ghosn said.
NO LONGER AN IMITATOR
Ghosn also feels that Nissan's image in America needs to be defined. But he himself is unsure of what Nissan stands for right now, other than value.
One thing Nissan will no longer be known as is an imitator of Honda and Toyota. Without naming those companies expressly, Ghosn remarked, 'We need to be more customer-oriented, and we've been too much competitor-oriented or technology-oriented.'
From 1991-98, Nissan's global market share skidded from 6.6 percent to 4.9 percent. The company has lost money most of those years as well.
Nissan North America will be the key to a turnaround, Ghosn said. 'The U.S. market is not important; it's vital. If we can't progress here and establish ourselves as a Tier 1 brand, then the future for Nissan will be dark.'