LAS VEGAS — A conference room in the SLS Las Vegas Hotel was an understated follow-up to Renault-Nissan's flashy keynote at CES last year, but Chairman Carlos Ghosn found a way to hold court amid an array of journalists and coterie of executives through repeated, enthusiastic endorsements of the alliance's autonomous car strategy.
Ghosn was there ostensibly to announce the launch of a venture capital arm aimed at wooing startups, with a target investment of $1 billion seeded over five years. In effect, this highlighted the fact that the alliance, now including Mitsubishi, was lagging peers in acquiring or partnering with startups and tech companies.
"There's a lot of statements, a lot of declarations; there's often a lot of delays," Ghosn said. "The only way to measure how advanced we are is to measure how many troops you have on the ground. Today, Nissan is the largest maker of autonomous drive [systems]. About 75,000 cars with autonomous drive features, mainly in Japan."
The statement was a glimpse into how the alliance sees its autonomous strategy. While many carmakers speak only in terms of advanced autonomous systems — those capable of ferrying you to work and back while you sleep or do yoga — Ghosn is considering all levels of autonomous driver-assist functions as fair game for bragging rights. Think lane-keep assist, autonomous valet, and highway entry and exit.
"We're going to introduce 40 cars with different levels of autonomous drive," he said. "We don't want to try to guess the market. We want to be prepared in case the market takes off."