DETROIT - Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. will expand into South America by sharing the new Brazilian plant of Renault SA, its controlling shareholder, COO Carlos Ghosn said here last week.
In an interview during the Automotive News World Congress, Ghosn said Nissan will announce by June how and when it will piggyback onto Renault's operations in Brazil.
The Renault factory, in Curitiba, the Parana state capital in southern Brazil, began production in early 1999. The $1 billion complex, which assembles the Renault Scenic and Clio II, has an annual capacity of 150,000 units.
Neither Renault vehicle has any commonality with any current-generation Nissan vehicle.
'This project is derived from the synergies between Renault and Nissan, which means you can expect to see something where Nissan will be building on the existing infrastructure of Renault to try to get better penetration and presence on the market in a more effective way,' Ghosn said.
What Renault has done in Mexico - building on Nissan's infrastructure - is an example of what will be done in other parts of the world, Ghosn said.
'And when I say infrastructure,' he said, 'I'm talking suppliers, I'm talking manufacturing plants, I'm talking distribution networks, I'm talking back offices, practically everything which comes into the company. The whole purpose of the alliance is to avoid redoing yourself what your partner already has.'
TOO RELIANT ON JAPAN
Ghosn also said that Nissan's North American operations are too reliant on Japan and will expand sourcing from North American suppliers. At issue is the volatility of the dollar-yen relationship.
'Compared to our competitors from Japan, we are a little bit behind in terms of our percentage of cars sold in the U.S., assembled in the U.S. and in terms of (North American) content,' he said.
But Ghosn downplayed widespread reports that Nissan will offer a full-sized pickup in the U.S. market in 2003, suggesting the media may have read too much into an earlier remark.
'We didn't mention anything specific about that,' he said when asked if the pickup project has been approved.
'We said (at the Tokyo Motor Show) that Nissan would be present in every segment of the market in North America. Somebody then said, `Does this mean large pickup trucks?' And all we said was that we would be present in all segments.'
A source familiar with the project confirmed that the truck has not been approved or funded. 'But will we get it?' he asked. 'Yes, we're going to get it.'