February 25, 2011 / 2:22 PM / 7 years ago

Highlights: Interview with Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer at Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Renault SA (RENA.PA), spoke to Reuters in his office at Nissan’s global headquarters on Friday.

Below are Ghosn’s comments from the interview on key issues for the two companies.

ON RENAULT-NISSAN CAPITAL STRUCTURE

”This structure has been very solid to help us cement the alliance, create a strong sense of belonging to the alliance, even though people are still fiercely Renault or fiercely Nissan, attached to the culture.

”(But) we are challenged (by financial markets) over how much capital we have imprisoned into the structure of the alliance. It’s a fair challenge.

”We are going to be studying and analyzing this with outsiders also, what are the ways to respond to these expectations from the financial markets without challenging the operating model which consists of keeping the two companies vibrant, motivated, engaged and keeping their identities.

”You have to study all the consequences. This is a very delicate balance between the two companies. You need something that makes all the shareholders happy, both at Renault and Nissan.

“As the CEO, I have to take care of the short term, mid term and the long term.”

Asked if a change in the capital structure would come by the halfway point of Renault’s business plan to 2016, he said: “Hopefully it will come even before.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR RENAULT-NISSAN ALLIANCE

”The biggest challenge is modernizing and adapting the alliance and, at the same time, keeping the strength of the alliance.

“What I want to do is to adapt the alliance to the new realities of the markets, make the changes that are necessary but at the same time keep what made the alliance resourceful and so strong in front of adversity.”

VIEW ON MERGERS

”Every single time you make a merger, somebody is losing his identity. And saying something different is just rubbish.

”It is not validated by any example in the car industry that this works. Not one example.

”So that’s why we’re trying to avoid this by saying we want two companies which are vibrant, proud, eager for their own performance but at the same time, which want synergies.

“This is the beauty of the alliance. It is a synergy with a different identity, while a merger is synergy with one identity. But the problem of the one identity is always perceived that somebody loses and somebody wins.”

SUCCESSION PLANS

“As long as I‘m heading Renault, I would like to propose that I continue to head Nissan because I think it’s good for Nissan to have the same CEO. It guarantees partnership, the same level of decision.”

Ghosn’s mandate as CEO of Renault goes to 2014, while his two-year term at Nissan is up for renewal this year.

Asked if Nissan’s next CEO should be a Japanese national, he said: “Definitely it should be somebody who is recognized at Nissan. That’s number one. Personally I have a preference for a Japanese. (But) this doesn’t depend on me because the shareholders have their own say.”

CURRENCY IMPACT

    ”My main resources, my main strengths, my main talents and expertise are in Japan. On the other side, we’re going to have to deal with unfavorable exchange rates for a while.

    ”So in function of these two elements, and our sales forecast -- fortunately for us, we are in a strong growth -- we are envisioning that we will be producing more than 1 million cars in Japan (a year) for the foreseeable future, even at this exchange rate level.

    ”With the strong growth, I need capacity. Because we are growing, thanks to the emerging markets and thanks to our investments in China, Russia, etc, and in the Middle East, we need this capacity in Japan.

    “If the yen goes to 90, 95, 100 yen (to the dollar), then the 1 million is going to be a piece of cake. If it’s stuck at 80 or 85, it’s going to be tough.”

    ON THE SURGING OIL PRICE

    ”We’re not happy it’s going up, but in a certain way, we were prepared because now we have alternative technology allowing us to compete at this level.

    ”(But higher oil prices) mean the growth prospects of many markets are going to be downgraded, some kind of uneasiness for people to be buying a second car or third car.

    “It’s not always only bad news. What is important for us is to have a strategy that is balanced.”

    RENAULT INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE CASE

    ”When a company is facing a problem, it always takes a stance and takes a decision, but at the same time it wants to make sure of what it can learn from it, what enhancements it can make.

    ”Obviously I cannot tell you more because we are waiting for French justice to take a position. Until they take a position, nobody is going to move.

    “When justice comes out with a final conclusion, we will communicate.”

    Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edmund Klamann

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