The car industry is an excellent economic bellweather as its health often a reflection of consumer confidence or economic vigour. So who better to talk to about the global economy at Davos than one of the motor industry’s most respected bosses? Isabelle Kumar spoke to Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn.
Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “Carlos Ghosn,let’s begin with the big picture. How do you see the eurozone crisis impacting the global economy?”
“I think the global economy is going to be impacted but not dramatically. I think the IMF has been reducing the perspective for next year for the global economy from 4.5 percent to 3.8 percent, now to 3.3 percent. I think this is mainly the effect of Europe on the global economy.”
euronews: “Renault-Nissan seems to be bucking that trend. Is that a realistic forecast or an optimistic one?”
“I think for 2012, what we are going to see at the level of the industry is a contraction in Europe. I don’t think anybody is even hoping for the car market in Europe to go up. But, on the other side, this decrease of the market in the eurozone will be compensated by growth everywhere else: the United States is going to go up, Latin America is going to go up, China is going to go up, Russia, even Japan is going to go up! So, yes, we have bad news coming from Europe, contraction in Europe, but it’s going to be more than compensated by the growth, even moderate, taking place all over the world. So, we’re going to end up with a record year for the industry, and obviously also a record year for Renault-Nissan.”
euronews: “So, with the eurozone economies contracting, how safe are people’s jobs in your company?”
“I think we have already anticipated a lot of the softening that will take place in Europe. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, we were all taken a little bit by surprise, that’s why it was a little bit messy. Now there is no surprise. You know, for many months we were seeing something happening. So we’re ready, we have reduced inventory, we are postponing investment, we have been very cautious on hiring. I don’t think you are going to see any announcements more than what has been done already about head count reduction or social plans.”
euronews: “You turned Nissan’s fortunes round in just three years, it’s added to your superstar status. We’ve got a lot of business leaders here in the doldrums. Have you got any insights to share with them?”
“Our job is really to be extremely pragmatic, to be extremely lucid, not to come with preconceived ideas. You have to make sure that you are adapting the solutions to the problems you’re facing, and you’re not trying to take, you know, some pages from somebody else’s pagebook, or even your own book, because it doesn’t apply for the new situation you’re facing.”
euronews: “So what are the best moments and the worst moments of your working life?”
“You know, I can tell you the first year we made a profit, when we turned around Nissan, was a great moment because finally we had something happening after 10 years of struggle. Every time you open a new plant into a new territory, or a new country, is a great moment for you because you’re opening the border for your company.
“Next month, Renault will open a new plant in Morocco, that’s a great moment. Nissan is announcing a new plant in Mexico, and when we open this plant, it’s going to be a great moment.
“The most difficult moments are always the moments of uncertainty, where you have excruciating choices to make and you don’t always see clearly what’s going on.”
euronews: “One of the other good moments for Renault-Nissan are the electric vehicles. Now you’ve got a fleet here for CEOs to test-drive. A lot of people at the top have got a vested interest in the oil industry. How much traction is this clean energy having with them?”
“The traction is coming from the consumer. When we explain to the consumer what are the advantages of the zero emission car, the advantages of the electric car, they are extremely excited. You know, we sold more than 20,000 cars already in the calendar year 2011, we’re going to more than double this volume in 2012. So, it’s getting traction little by little.”
euronews: “Everyone leaves Davos with these Davos moments. Do you have any key moments from this Davos that you’ll be taking home with you?”
“The most impressive thing in Davos is a lot of pessimism this year. Last year there was a lot of optimism, that ended up not being totally justified because the year 2011 hasn’t been that great a year as everybody was expecting. So maybe 2012 will end up being better than what most of the people here think it will be.”