This morning Carlos Ghosn, the current CEO and President of Renault and Nissan opened the LA auto show on a forward-looking note. Nowhere are the pressures of the current global recession and looming gas prices more salient than this year's auto show, and Ghosn didn't ignore that. He began by speaking of the troubled times that most automakers are going through, focusing on the recent downturn and the need for companies to focus on the short term even to survive.
On that note he predicted a consolidation in the automotive market, hinting that at least one of the major manufacturers would be bought out or would merge with another. You may remember that Nissan/Renault already made an offer for Chrysler earlier in the year when the GM merger rumors were still running high. However, without saying anything in specific, he gave the impression that many manufacturers were already on the brink.
In speaking of the long term, Ghosn seemed optimistic that the markets in India and China were about to explode, driving world total vehicle ownership up to 2.5 billion units by 2050 (compared to 600 million currently). Though he did not comment about the future of the automotive industry in such long terms, he remained confident that cars would be the transportation of choice across the world for at least the next 10 to 15 years.
However, responding to economic and environmental pressures, the type of car would have to change. On this point he revealed that Nissan would be rolling out its first electric cars in the United States in a partnership with the state of Oregon in 2010. Because this was the keynote address and not a company press event, details were few and far between, but it's encouraging to hear that Nissan is working with local governments (outside of the typical LA-centric product testing) to make electric vehicles and the associate infrastructure a reality in North America.
written by James, November 20, 2008
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