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Daimler, Nissan-Renault CEOs Tout Cooperation – But Leave Key Question Answered

Alliance goes global as it rapidly expands.

by on Sep.11, 2013

Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche and Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn meet in Frankfurt to update the media on their expanding partnership.

In what has become a regular, if recent, tradition, Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche and Renault-Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn came together at the Frankfurt Motor Show, sharing a stage to describe the increasing cooperation between the three automakers.

But perhaps the biggest question the two executives were expected to face was left unanswered, Zetsche and Ghosn insisting they had not locked down widely anticipated plans to jointly produce luxury cars at a new Nissan plant soon to open in Mexico.

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When the French-Japanese-German partnership was unveiled in April 2010, the makers set to work on three projects largely focused on Europe.  Since then, however, they have brought the count to 10, with others under discussion.

“There is no limit to the cooperation” possible, Ghosn told reporters during the hour-long session, though he did add one caveat.  He called “unacceptable…anything that would lead to confusion” between the various brands.

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Renault Nissan Acquiring Control of Russia’s Avtovaz

Russia the next big opportunity for Japanese maker.

by on May.04, 2012

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn: back in the USSR or what's left of it.

While Nissan officials have been actively touting their aggressive plans for China they’ve also been negotiating behind the scenes to get a better position in the promising Russian market – a strategy now set to come together as Nissan and alliance partner Renault acquire a controlling stake in automaker Avtovaz.

Their new Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, would see Renault invest $300 million in the joint venture, Nissan kicking in another $450 million.  And it would help turn the once-decrepit Avtovaz plant in Togliatti into one of the largest automotive manufacturing centers in the world, capable of turning out 1.6 million vehicles annually.

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“Today’s memorandum is the latest step in an expanding collaboration that helps modernise the leader of Russia’s auto industry,” said Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Under the deal, which will become effective in 2014, Nissan and Renault products will roll down the Togliatti assembly line alongside Avtovaz models.  It is unclear if Nissan also will use the facility to produce some models badged under the re-born Datsun nameplate.

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GM Takes 7% Stake in Peugeot.

Peugeot already looking to expand GM alliance.

by on Mar.28, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson and PSA Peugeot Citroen CEO Phillippe Varin.

General Motors now holds a 7% stake of French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, the first critical step in an alliance announced a month ago – and one that the French automaker is already signaling it would like to expand.

GM’s acquisition was linked to a new Peugeot stock offering that the Paris-based maker intended to raise 1 billion Euros ($1.32 billion) in much-needed capital.  In fact, demand for the share issue by Europe’s second-largest automaker ran about 78% above the original target, at 1.78 billion Euros.

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GM now becomes the second-largest shareholder in PSA Peugeot Citroen after the founding Peugeot family.  Represented by several key executives, including chairman Phillippe Varin, the family itself holds a 25% stake – but has 38% of the corporate voting rights.

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More European Plant Closings Coming – But Who’ll be First?

by on Mar.19, 2012

“Europe, today, is a place where all manufacturers have capacity problems,” says Renault CEO Ghosn.

European automakers are desperately hoping that the just-concluded Geneva Motor Show will give the industry a much-needed push.  But with the Greek debt crisis still unsettled and economic problems spreading to other parts of the Continent, few expect automotive sales to rebound this year.

That’s likely to put even more pressure on the industry to address the chronic problem of overcapacity – which by some counts is running to several million vehicles annually.  Yet while almost all industry leaders agree that plant closings are needed no one seems to want to go first.

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“Europe, today, is a place where all manufacturers have capacity problems,” says Carlos Ghosn, CEO of The Renault-Nissan Alliance.

The Brazilian-born Ghosn estimates the industry may need to shrink capacity by as much as 20%, but everyone is waiting for the other guy to blink.  “The day it starts, every manufacturer will have to follow.”

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Who Really Won the Global Sales War?

GM or VW can each claim victory, depending on your math.

by on Jan.23, 2012

Did VW or GM win last year's global sales race? It depends on how you count.

There’s one fact that everyone seems to agree on: Toyota did not maintain its lead in the global automotive sales sweepstakes last year, the maker suffering significant production losses due to Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent flooding in Thailand.

While Toyota has not yet released its final numbers for 2011, it signaled they’ll be down at least 6%, to just below 8 million, which would knock the maker out of the box for the first time in three years.

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General Motors, on the other hand, claimed victory for the first time since it began its headlong plunge into bankruptcy, the maker reporting global sales of 9.03 million – including a record 4.76 million under its Chevrolet brand alone.  But that may be part of the problem.  While Volkswagen is not openly challenging GM’s claim, officials with the German maker have been quietly raising some questions about just exactly how its U.S. rival added things up.

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Nissan to Double Sales of Leaf Battery Car in 2012

CEO says new Titan pickup coming; also says still more joint projects with Daimler likely.

by on Jan.10, 2012

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn insists the battery car is far from a failure.

Nissan expects to double sales of its Leaf battery-electric vehicle in 2012, CEO Carlos Ghosn said during a meeting with members of the automotive media at the North American International Auto Show.

The make sold just 9,674 of the cars last year, its first entry into the nascent field of electrification.  But Ghosn downplayed the concerns expressed by many industry analysts, some going so far as to suggest battery propulsion has already proven to be a failure.

“The only reason we couldn’t sell more is because we couldn’t build more,” the Brazilian-born executive emphasized, suggesting the biggest issue was a shortage of batteries, and adding that “We’re expecting in 2012 to double that number.”

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He better hope so considering the commitment to battery power being made by Nissan and its French alliance partner Renault.  Globally, they plan to have production capacity in place for 400,000 battery cars annually by 2015, with a sizable chunk of that in a new facility Nissan is building alongside its existing assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

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Nissan-Renault Launch $1.8 Bil “Brazil Offensive”

Makers aim to double share in booming market by 2016.

by on Oct.06, 2011

Renault's new Duster 4x4 is part of an aggressive product program aimed at Brazil that will see it - and Nissan - launch 23 new models.

Nissan and its alliance partner Renault will invest $1.8 billion in an aggressive campaign to double their market share in the booming Brazilian auto market over the next five years.

Expanding upon earlier announcements, the two makers will launch 23 new models and expand their combined production capacity to 580,000 vehicles annually.

“Brazil represents a tremendous opportunity – both as a manufacturing base and as the home of a new generation of Renault and Nissan customers,” said Carlos Ghosn, who serves as CEO of both Nissan and Renault, during an announcement in Rio de Janeiro. “Brazil weathered the recession and emerged as the clear engine of growth for Latin America in the 21st century. We look forward to contributing to the region’s rapidly evolving manufacturing and technological expertise.”

Fueled by its fast-growing middle-class, automotive demand in Brazil has been red hot and that’s leading makers to commit to invest billions to boost their production capacity.  But could they heading for trouble?  The market has seen some unexpected slowdowns this year which raises concerns about Brazil’s ability to maintain its momentum at a time when much of the rest of the global economy – even China – is showing signs of trouble.

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But Ghosn – who is a Brazilian native – is clearly convinced the market can overcome its problems.  With a population of 190 million, Brazil has become the largest economy in Latin America, in large part due to a 25% growth in its middle class over the past decade.  Vehicle ownership surged from 121 per thousand in 2002 to 158 by 2008.

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Will Mitsubishi, Nissan Partner On Battery Cars?

An alliance could be “a good one,” says Ghosn.

by on Dec.16, 2010

Mitsubishi and Nissan plan to cooperate on conventional vehicles - but may also partner on battery cars like Mitsubishi's iMIEV.

Nissan and Mitsubishi have announced a new joint venture, one that will have the two Japanese makers working together on a new minicar and other products.  But the two are apparently looking at other options that could include the joint production of electric vehicles – an emerging market segment where both makers have been staking out an early lead.

Nissan’s tie-up with the smaller, still-struggling Mitsubishi is just the latest partnership engineered by Ghosn, who first went to Tokyo in 1999 to manage an alliance between Nissan and the French automaker, Renault.  Since then, Ghosn has pushed the partners into a variety of other alliances and joint ventures, including a far-reaching partnership with Germany’s Daimler AG.

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“In the global auto industry, cooperation on specific projects among automakers is becoming increasingly common,” Ghosn said at a Tokyo news conference.  ”It is, in fact, a signal of how our industry is evolving to sustain success over the long term, by leveraging size, scale and investments more effectively to create more value.”

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French Automakers Betting Big On Battery Power

Government backing is a key motivator.

by on Oct.13, 2010

Renault's DeZir concept was one of an array of French-made battery cars at the Paris Motor Show.

In the days leading up to this month’s Paris Motor Show, French papers raised the suggestion that the event organizers consider changing its name; perhaps offered one, the Paris Electric Vehicle Show might be more appropriate.

While the idea was politely rejected, there’s no question what is formally known as the 2011 Mondial de l’Automobile is perhaps the most electrified auto show to date.  Visitors to the event, which continues through the 17th, would have a hard time finding a stand that didn’t put some emphasis on battery power – from pure EV makers like Tesla to slick sports car makers, such as Lotus, which promises to offer its Formula One-derived hybrid system in an assortment of new models.  Even Jaguar weighed in with the 205 mph C-X75 extended-range electric supercar.

But few makers put more emphasis on battery technology than the home team, the French manufacturers Renault and PSA Citroen, who seem to be suggesting that virtually everything they build will rely on electric propulsion – or at least offer a battery-powered option – in the very near future.

This move may underscore how government mandates can be even more critical in steering industry than actual consumer demand.

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The Renault stand featured models like the Fluence, and striking DeZir Concept, as well as the quirky little Twizy.  Peugeot rolled out the Ion, BB1, HR1 Concept and a number of offerings of its own, while its sibling brand, Citroen, had a number of battery models and battery-drive options for products like the upcoming DS5.

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Jim Press Pulled Back By Renault/Nissan Allianace

Former Toyota, Chrysler exec aiding global alliance strategy.

by on Jul.20, 2010

Former Toyota and Chrysler exec Jim Press has resurfaced working for the Renault/Nissan Alliance.

Once the most powerful American in the Japanese auto industry, Jim Press has resurfaced, this time working for the Renault/Nissan Alliance.

The 63-year-old Press is serving as a consultant on sales, service and marketing issues for the Euro-Asian partnership, a Nissan/Renault spokesman says.

A former board member with Toyota Motor Co. and the maker’s top-ranked U.S. executive, Press had most recently been working as a vice chairman for Chrysler until the maker’s 2009 bankruptcy.

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“Jim is already making a great contribution to the business,” said Renault/Nissan spokesman Simon Sproule, confirming Press’s involvement with the Alliance.

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