People who claim Renault boss Louis Schweitzer is getting tired of his job are wrong - or maybe half wrong. In 2005, the date Schweitzer long
ago set himself as the time to retire, he will relinquish the job of Renault CEO to Carlos Ghosn, currently CEO of Nissan.
But Schweitzer will remain as Renault chairman, while Ghosn will run day-to-day operations at both Renault and Nissan. In 2005, Schweitzer will turn 63 and Ghosn will be 51.
Although common in Anglo-American companies, the split between the chairman and CEO roles is unusual in France. Therefore, Schweitzer's announcement surprised Renault shareholders at a meeting earlier this month.
It is more common for French companies who wish to keep a revered chairman in some sort of role to name him as the head of a supervisory board, with executive powers being wielded by the head of a management committee.
To prepare for his future role, Ghosn joined Renault's board for a four-year period.
Schweitzer hired Ghosn from Michelin in 1996. Three years later, the French carmaker saved Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy when it took a 37 percent stake in the company. Nissan's recovery was led by Ghosn, Schweitzer's former lieutenant, who was transferred to Japan.
Renault tightened its grip on Nissan earlier this year, raising its stake to 44.4 percent.
Europe worries Toyota
Europe, not the weakening US market, is Toyota's greatest challenge, said executive vice president Tadaaki Jagawa.
'What concerns me most is the European market,' he said. 'We need to make our European operations profitable as quickly as possible.'
Toyota won't be profitable in Europe for a while yet, he predicted.
'Maybe in 2003, we would hope to post black ink in our operating profit,' Jagawa said.
In the year ended March 31, 2001, Toyota lost 23 billion yen, or E197.1 million at current exchange rates, on an operating basis in Europe. That was significantly worse than the year-earlier operating loss of E79.2 million. It was the only geographic region where Toyota lost money.
Toyota's plans to turn its European operations around include boosting sales to 800,000 a year; strengthening the Lexus brand in Europe; and
raising local production, mainly at its Valenciennes plant in France.
But Jagawa said that while the French plant could see some gains, 'a major increase in capacity, like a doubling, is not in the plans.'
Targa fight gets hotter
Porsche is battling with Fiat over the use of the name 'targa.'
The German luxury sports car maker claims it invented the term back in 1971, using it to describe a version of the 911.
Targa - a term Porsche still uses today - refers to the 911's adaptable hard-roof panels that can be removed and stored to create a convertible.
Fiat Auto, which created its customer service division in 1995, renamed it Fiat Targa Service in July 1997.
Porsche lost its first court case against Fiat over the rights to the targa name in December 2000. But Porsche tried again in a court in Turin, Italy, on March 25. A decision by the court is expected June 10.