Nissan's Carlos Ghosn
On how Schweitzer gave him the job of turning around Nissan:
"[Louis Schweitzer] told me, You must be aware that I have only one person in mind who can go to Japan and do this job, and that person is you.' Was I surprised? No. Considering my record, it seemed the next logical step. ... And being as objective as possible under the circumstances, I thought that if I were in Louis Schweitzer's place, I'd have chosen me, too."
On how he will run both Renault and Nissan:
"It is true that the arrangement planned from 2005 is unheard of. But then the Alliance [between Nissan and Renault] is unheard of and what we did at Nissan is unheard of. There is a kind of continuity in the unheard of' theme. ... To lead two companies of that size at the same time does not frighten me. On the contrary, I find it elating. We are creating a new model; new references in terms of management; but the experience we are going through will be useful beyond the corporate world. ... Innovation in management, that's my cup of tea.
"There will be more Nissan people allocated to Renault [but] one won't see a Nissan commando' returning to Billancourt [Renault's headquarters near Paris] with me. We shall keep increasing the flow of Renault people who get jobs at Nissan and vice-versa.
On the situation at Renault, which he joined from French tire maker Michelin in 1996 and left for Nissan in 1999:
"There was a big difference between Renault in 1996 and Renault in 1999. ... Since then, Renault has stalled a little. But, obviously, Renault has made a huge investment in money, human resources and time, in order to develop the Alliance. ... It wouldn't be fair to emphasize Nissan's recovery and leave Renault out of consideration. Many of Renault's resources have gone into that recovery."
On GM and Ford:
"I am convinced that if General Motors and Ford are having difficulties today, it's because they haven't become truly global corporations. They have remained too American. They realize most of their profits in the United States. They seem unable to make satisfactory, stable profits elsewhere, not in Europe, not in Latin America and not in Asia."
On low-pollution cars:
"I've been criticized for not believing in hybrid cars, for missing an opportunity. Very well. Wait and see what happens in coming years. ... If you try to develop everything at the same time, your financial situation gets out of sync with your main rivals. And you always end up paying for that. It is impossible to make a clear-cut choice between thermal engines, diesel, hybrids, electric engines or fuel cells."
On Renault's possible return to the US:
"If Renault were alone, the question of its return to the American market would be vexed and insoluble. It's impossible to build a global enterprise without a presence in the United States. But that's not Renault's immediate priority. ... Only when Nissan reaches its potential in North America will it be the time to reopen the question of Renault's return there. ... Had Nissan been alone, the necessity of strengthening its presence in Europe would have been much more pressing."
On why all carmakers dream of selling cars in the US:
"Nissan intrinsically is more profitable than Renault because the US market is much more profitable than other markets. If the Japanese automobile manufacturers today are intrinsically more profitable than their European rivals, that's due in large part to their presence in North America."
On the differences between the US, European and Japanese markets:
"Why is the American market the most profitable in the world today? Because the product mix is the richest. Volume is huge and yet there's only one culture. When we launch an advertising campaign in the United States, it's a single campaign for a market of 16 million vehicles. When you talk to your dealers, you use one language. Sixteen million cars, one culture, a unique marketing approach and a very rich market mix. In Europe, if you include eastern Europe, the market is bigger than in the US, with 18 million cars. But the mix is not as rich and cultures are diverse. A German doesn't buy the way a French person does, or an Italian, or a Spaniard. Commercials and advertising campaigns are different; marketing is fragmented. There's a relative inefficiency inherent in the makeup of the European market. It will take years to reach the US market's level of efficiency, because the European market is multicultural. The Japanese market is in an intermediary position. Japan is one country with one culture but the volume is smaller and the mix is getting poorer, with entry-level cars superseding upper-range cars."
On Nissan's action plan:
"The reduction in development time is one of our major efforts. I did not mention it in our [Nissan] 180 plan because it is extremely sensitive from a competition point of view.
"But we are heading toward a significant reduction. The challenge is to maintain quality and meet launch deadlines."
On the comparative advantage in building cars in Japan or in China:
"I don't envisage reducing production capacity in Japan. What we removed was already lying idle."
"Rather than Japanese labor costs, the foreign expansion [of Nissan operations] reflects the refusal to take a foreign exchange risk. As much as possible one has to source and assemble [cars] in the currency in which you're selling them, to reduce risk."