Monday, December 31, 2018

GHOSNED-OUT?

This will be the last story on the Carlos Ghosn saga in DRIVING & LIFE until the results of all enquiries are completed and final statements issued.

But I will leave you with some final thoughts.

First of all, I have met Carlos Ghosn twice, both times at the Geneva Salon, and had the chance to observe him closely. He is an incredibly meticulous man, both professionally, with his time management, and in his personal grooming.

Given the salvage and recovery tasks he faced at Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, I am certain Ghosn’s meticulous eyes were over everything, he would not miss a single detail.

So whilst his big salary and grand perks wrankle the Japanese, and Nissan in particular, I cannot for a minute imagine any of the so-called ‘extras’ to his salary were not documented precisely in accordance with Nissan’s operating procedures. It’s just the way Ghosn is – thoroughly meticulous.

He is also a devoted family man. The second time I met him during a media Q&A in Geneva, he stopped the meeting to take a phone call from his youngest daughter, on his own personal mobile phone. He carries multiple mobiles – one private, and one each for the Alliance businesses.

Now let’s address Nissan’s complaints about salary and benefits. 
In 2017 Carlos Ghosn earned a total of USD$16.9 million (USD$8.4m from Renault; USD$6.5m from Nissan; and USD$2.0m from Mitsubishi).

In the same year, GM’s filings revealed CEO Mary Barra was paid USD$22 million.

However, let’s go back to 1999 when he pioneered the Renault-Nissan Alliance, with USD$5 billion of Renault's money, and look at the challenges he faced. Nissan was carrying a USD$35 billion debt load, and its cars and SUVs were, shall we say, ‘slumbering’ at the bottom of the global sales charts. Honda was #2 to Toyota.

Ghosn challenged Japan’s legendary ‘job for life’ philosophy, and other anti-competitive business practices, by slashing the Supplier list, closing factories and cutting the bloated workforce by 14% - no wonder Nissan got uptight with this relentless and ambitious ‘gaijin’.

But, six years on he had restored Nissan to Japan’s Number Two carmaker; its market capitalization quintupled, and its operating margins grew tenfold. Not bad for six years of meticulous attention to the details.

Nissan executives who spoke anonymously to New York-based reporters said that the extra homes Ghosn used ‘were’ acquired legally, by a legally set-up Nissan ‘shell’ company, so that their value was not confused with regular Nissan automotive assets.

The Alliance is quite a complex setup, because it also involves investments by Daimler AG, and you can't imagine the Germans not closely covering off all their financial connections with the Ghosn-led group of companies.

As soon as Ghosn is freed, I suggest he retreats back to Renault, and leaves Saikawa and his pals to their honorable task of driving Nissan to the edge of another abyss. This time around, let ‘em drop off.

I forsee that with Ghosn's energies and drive directed at the French company, there will be a promising future for Renault. But, he could surprise everyone and just retire.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

SEDANS AMERICANS SLAUGHTERED, BY SUCKING UP SUVs

The shift in consumer preferences for SUVs over passenger cars has been so dramatic in the past two years that many famous nameplates will be retired by the end of 2019. Here is a list of passenger cars currently sold in the USA, which will simply no longer be manufactured after 2019.

Consumers will be able to buy most from the vast stockpile of unsold vehicles, until the supply is exhausted, and some (like the VW Toureg) will remain available in other global markets.

The biggest number of sedans on the hit list are from the GM catalogue, and despite Ford saying it would only field two passenger cars from 2019 onwards – Focus and Mustang – it appears that Focus will be killed off too.

Here's a list of the inmates on death row at General Motors .....
From top left: Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac ATS, Cadillac STS, Cadillac CT6 (centre),
Chevrolet Volt ER, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Cruze

Meanwhile, in nearby Dearborn the Ford product planners will kill off the Ford Focus (top), the Ford C-Max (centre), and the Ford Taurus.

Ford, like GM and FIAT Chrysler, cannot turn out SUVs and trucks fast enough.

With the USA virtually self-sufficient in oil, thanks to fracking, fuel prices have dropped dramatically, so that means more big pickups and SUV are populating America's freeways.








Among the importers, panic has also set in as some well-known, and some iconic models bite the dust.

The list includes the VW Beetle and VW Toureg.

Plus, the Toyota Prius V, the Nissan Joke (er, sorry the 'Juke'), and the Honda CRZ.

Hyundai will sacrifice the Azera, which stopped dead, after the Koreans switched their luxury car focus to Genisis.
Here's a tip: This list is going to get bigger. Much bigger. And it will spread across the globe into all markets.




Friday, December 28, 2018

LATEST CURVED BALL OF THE CARLOS COUP D'ETAT & TROUBLE IN CHINA

Okay, so Xmas has come and gone and Carlos Ghosn remains in a Tokyo jail cell, pending a request from prosecutors to hold him in jail ‘indefinitely’. He does get to 'bathe' twice a week however, so it's not all bad!

One would expect that this would be an appropriate request for someone suspected to be guilty of personal crimes like murder or manslaughter, but unproven corporate fraud, really? As I've said before: "Could you imagine someone like Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG, doing business with whom Nissan would have you believe is the Bernie Maddoff of France?"

So what’s behind this latest move? It would appear to be aimed at causing Carlos Ghosn maximum loss-of-face.

Well, like everything in Japanese culture, state laws, and governance, the real objective remains obscure, ambiguous, opaque and complicated.

Because it now appears that the original charge, that Mr. Ghosn ‘understated his Japanese income by USD$44 million', has now been superseded by a NEW claim from Nissan - 'that Mr. Ghosn transferred USD$17 million of his own personal debt’ to the books of Nissan Japan!

Really? In this day and age of corporate scrutiny and supposed transparency, for a corporate entity and its finance staff (at Nissan) to blithely accept the transfer of (some of Ghosn’s) personal trading losses to the company’s books is either criminal conspiracy, within the Nissan finance department, or blatant stupidity.

As the tale of this clumsy coup d’etat unfolds, with some new twist each week, I begin to wonder what other stupidly-conceived charges Nissan could lay at the feet of the man who saved it from total destruction.

We come back to one realization – it is the Japan-ification of Nissan, and a grand opportunity to get rid of those nasty, controlling, French bastards.

At this stage Renault (and also the French Government) is completely supportive of Ghosn, especially his temporary replacement, Thierry Bollore!

Having dealt with both the Japanese culture, and Japanese companies over the last 40 years, there is (to me) an obvious outcome.

The charges will be investigated, proved to be baseless, and Ghosn will be released - having been publicly humiliated in the eyes of the whole Japanese community, so it would be appropriate that he not continue to serve as Chairman of Nissan, or the Alliance with Mitsubishi. Job done!

BTW, the ONLY global news organisation which is right on top of this farce is London's Financial Times - don't bother reading any other coverage - because the others are all covering their arses with what they write!


******************

Whilst on the subject of French companies, I detect another truly stupid business play is becoming obvious in China, where 14% of PSA Groupe is owned by Dongfeng Motors – a tiddler by the size comparisons with most Chinese carmakers. And, remember, Groupe PSA is also floundering under the debt load caused by its absorption of GM Europe.

In 2015, PSA/Dongfeng sold 750,000 cars in all of China, but in 2017 that had plummeted to a piffling 205,000 cars, and the French/Chinese partners announced plans to build yet another new factory, just to make electric vehicles. Why the rush to INCREASE the JV's debt load? Maybe it's a tax write-off?

If the're already over-producing, what's wrong with utilizing existing capacity?
I guess my mate, Eric Peugeot and all of the Peugeot family, whom I was privileged to meet in Paris in 1983, must be checking the CAC40 at the Bourse everday to see how their holdings are, shall we say, holding up!

This news raises a red flag around ALL the US and European companies involved in joint ventures in China.

All the outsiders who rushed into China (Ford, GM, PSA, Volkswagen et al) have had their fingers badly burned, as the Chinese domestic market slumps to a crawl, and ALL of the big guys have already announced big plans to build extra factories, pumping up their existing over-supply of unsold vehicles.

Only ONE company has had the good sense to pull out of China! I'm proud to say that it's Suzuki. This tiny, but hugely successful company, has not survived this long by indulging in speculative global gambling.


This coming year will see many global carmakers wish they had planned a more prudent approach to their 'gold standard' Chinese investments. In all of their home markets, most of these global giants are still over-producing, with unsold inventory clogging up vacant lots around each of the countries.

Yes, foresight (as usual) seems to be as far away as, say, next week!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

CAN'T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN (or quiet)

I always get a buzz anticipating opening my annual Xmas card from Bernie Ecclestone, and this year is no exception.

He may have lost his role as F1 el Supremo, but he certainly hasn't lost his sense of humour.


Thanks Bernie, and all the best for 2019 - even if it is from the sidelines.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

DRIVEN PERSONALITIES - MARYANN KELLER

In the mid-1970s the name Maryann Keller was known only to a tight group of automotive industry analysts and business reporters in New York City.

According to The New York Times, she was the first female analyst to cover the auto industry, and by the early 80s she had established a solid reputation as a hard-headed, and insightful commentator on the car business.

The turmoil in the industry caused by the emergence of Japanese carmakers making substantial inroads into the U.S. market was great fodder for analysts and commentators, but Maryann’s observations were more often than not ‘right on the money’.

Her fellow analysts were guilty of great hubris, and were as much in denial about the impact of the Japanese onslaught as were the managements of the ‘Big Three’.

Through my good friend, Keith Crain (right), owner and publisher of Detroit’s ‘industry bible’, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS, I was able to establish contact with Maryann.

On a visit to New York in late 1988 I tried to setup a lunch date close to her Wall Street office, but such is the busy life of a high-flying analyst it never eventuated.

However, we stayed in touch by letters.

She said she loved Australians' way of ‘cutting through the bullshit’ and getting to the point.

I told her if she ever had an opportunity to visit Australia, I would be delighted to help with her trip.

In 1989 however Maryann Keller’s name rose to greater prominence after she published a book called ‘Rude Awakening’.

It contained mostly excerpts from a series of deep interviews Maryann had with GM Chairman Roger Smith.

What it exposed were the multiple management flaws of the Detroit giant.

In a phone conversation with her during the week the book was published she said it had caused a combination of outrage, denial and strong criticism of her attempts to attack General Motors, a bastion of American corporate culture.

However, in many circles outside the tiny clique of automotive analysts she told me she had received a great deal of encouragement for her views, and the forthright manner she portrayed GM as hopelessly lost in this sea of foreign competition, and proving to be quite inept at planning its future strategies to cope with declining sales of US-made cars, and the fast-growing imports of cheap, economical Japanese models.

In 1989 I was instrumental in Maryann visiting Australia for four days to address an industry conference, and we spent quite a long time talking about the industry and its frailties.


I don’t plan to either quote passages from the book, or even summarize it, but it was very definitely a ‘bombshell’. For the first time, an outsider had gained access to GM’s inner sanctum, watched and listened to the opinions and plans of its Chairman, and subsequently presented the view that GM was in a state of complete turmoil which could eventually destroy the ‘institution’.

Maryann took the view that GM was led by a total autocrat who persuaded or, more often, cajoled the Board into meekly going along with whatever plans he presented.


After publishing my own somewhat damning observations a few weeks ago regarding the ineptitude of GM-Holden’s successive managements and lack of ability to see beyond the ‘Commodore-era’, I decided to re-read ‘Rude Awakening’ in case it informed a deeper view of the giant corporation, and the possibility that the hubris and ineptitude of the 1980s and 1990s in Detroit, might shed some light on how GM-Holden allowed denial and desperation to overrule common-sense and pragmatism.

Yes, I know hindsight is 20-20 vision, but in my own story I used a profit graph covering the years 2004 to 2009, which revealed that 2004 was the last year in that period that GM-Holden’s bean-counters recorded a profit.

Mind you, in the closing stages before manufacturing bit the dust, GM-Holden was more profitable thanks to improved margins, especially in its final two years as it maximized potential profits on cars that would soon disappear from the market. Opportunism reigned supreme, but who can blame the company.


However, the clear message from ‘RUDE AWAKENING’ was that GM, at the time, was ruled by one man, Roger Smith, supported by an ineffectual Board of Directors – and the rest is history.

It would seem that at least 2005 should have been the time for GM-Holden to have its post-manufacturing plans in formation, if not set in concrete. Everyone in the industry could see the trends, and both the Falcon Motor Company of Australia; and GM-Holden were both making the wrong cars!

Mind you, I have some personal experience in this area, which although I was not involved in any drastic corporate downfall, I was witness to the lead-up and the eventual disintegration of the company I worked for.


In 1985, Leyland Australia became JRA Limited, and shortly after started down a path of acquisitions aimed at making the company stronger. In theory, it was a good plan. The problem was that it was the late 1980s, when credit was flowing freely. JRA was able to make acquisitions with a combination of its own cash hoard, and loans, but three successive external disasters spelled the end for a company with a promising future.

This happened in 1991, but by then I had been headhunted by Jaguar Cars North America, in 1998, and was many thousands of kilometres from my former company’s implosion from lack of positive cashflow, and a debt burden it could not service.

Since that time I have become a keen student of carmakers’ efforts to either change direction, grow by acquisition, or shed jobs and resources just to survive. The one problem the car industry cannot escape from is that everything that happens in the car business takes a long time – either to come to fruition, or for the end to develop over long periods, and then the death blow can happen in a New York Minute.

For many decades the development time for a product to be designed, signed off and go to the manufacturing stage was about 5-7 years. Today, with platform and component sharing, that can take as little as 36 months.


This means you are inextricably bound to that product going on sale, eventually, in conditions separated from the initial idea by subsequent changes in consumer tastes, market conditions and general global stock market confidence (or lack thereof).

Never has this been a more confusing and difficult time to imagine, design, build and sell new products than right now. One only has to look at the rapid shift in preferences by consumers, to all sizes and shapes of SUVs, and the related fall in the appeal of conventional passenger cars.

We are now seeing every single carmaker developing a large catalogue of SUVs – small, compact and large – from the tiny Suzuki Ignis to the Jaguar E-Pace and Rolls-Royce Cullinan, and many in between those extremes.

We are also witnessing the contraction of the number of carmakers, either through acquisitions, collaborations, joint-ventures, or just simple takeovers.

So, picking the next hot trend has never been more difficult. 

All of which can be overshadowed by the state of the energy market. What will drive the vehicles of tomorrow? Petrol, diesel, battery power, solar, hybrid, hydrogen fuel cells or biofuel made from the huge piles of trash we accumulate?


Energy security is going to become more and more the focus of sovereign states as they seek to provide and protect their individual markets.

Somehow, I think we might be in for another ‘Rude Awakening’.

Friday, December 21, 2018

IS THIS WHAT THE 'NEW COMMODORE' SHOULD HAVE BEEN?

Just saying!


Ain’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

Now that thousands of GM-Holden employees have suffered through the closure of manufacturing operations; and new ZB Commodore sales are still on the canvas - rejecting the calls to ‘get up’, my friend Paul Gover and I began discussing that maybe, just maybe, the humungous Holden Acadia is the car the company could have named, nominally, as ‘The new Commodore’.

Think about it. Although ‘Mahogany Row’ at Holden failed to see the writing on the wall - that passenger cars were ‘on the nose’, and that investing in Opel knocking out thousands of Insignias badged as Commodores was going against the trends, perhaps some bright spark could have said:

“Hey, if passenger car sales are diving like the Mexicans off the cliffs of Acapulco, maybe we should ditch the whole Holden car lineup thing – and tell folks out there who are buying these SUV ‘thingys’ in thousands, that GM-Holden has decided on a major shift to left field, and re-arranged its portfolio around SUVs!”

Sounds simple right? 'If the punters no longer want passenger cars, and we’ve decided to ditch making cars, and, we’ve already identified a number of small, compact and large SUVs we can bring in from somewhere else around the globe, then we should go the whole hog'.

Such a move would have totally rattled the market, the competitors, the consumers and the dealers and may even have been hailed as prescient.



Then the ‘big gun’ – GMC’s Acadia – could come in with loads of space, high-riding outlook, and be just thing for family vacations – consigning the humble Holden sedan, and the caravan, to the pages of history.

In fact, thinking about it, it would have been a dazzling shift of focus and fall right in line with market needs.

I think the Trax is a dog, but, apparently, it does the job. By comparison the Equinox is a dazzler, and after a long drive in highway, suburban and city environs, the Acadia is pretty decent wagon.

There you go Holden – you can have this one on us!

Mind you, my friend, the very forward-thinking Nissan Australia CEO Richard Emery did just this - dumped cars, in favour of higher profit trucks and SUVs, and where did that get him? The Nissan HQ heavies in Yokohama asked him to pack his office ornaments and notepads in a cardboard box and leave the building!

So, maybe being right, in hindsight, is a career-limiting move!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

NEWS OF A BEV - YAWN!

If you follow DRIVING & LIFE you will know I am really a rev-head dinosaur, not yet ready and willing to surrender and embrace new tech, and that my biggest complaint about BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) in Australia, is that we re-charge them via a coal-fired electricity grid – ergo, no real environmental benefits Down Under.

However, I like to keep track of BEV development, after my brief road test of a BMW i3 (drivingandlife.com – 8/12/2016).

I quite enjoyed the driving experience, and technically speaking the only real technology news, was that almost all of the vehicle was constructed using carbon-fibre.

I guess that helps to explain why the i3 is so expensive.

Well it seems like the Gnomes of Munchën have had a big re-think, because the 2019 version of the i3 almost completely eschews carbon fibre.

BMW has announced that next year’s car will be built using more conventional materials like aluminium, high-strength steel and some alloy castings. There’s not much difference in the weight, but the cost of manufacture has dropped considerably.

I wonder if that will be reflected in the normal customer-gouging approach in the BMW AG accountancy division, which sets the retail prices? I was dreamin' - probably not!

Moving down the road from Munich to Wolsfburg comes news that the 2016 VW I.D. EV concept is to become a reality in 2020. Now doubt it will be announced at the IAA in Frankfurt in September next year.

There are few details, but VW says it will have a range of about 550km, and cost about the same as a Golf Diesel. It will be built on VW’s ‘MEB’ platform and it is likely to be badged as the ‘NEO’.

The NEO will come with two battery pack options – a 43kWh and 111 kWh, with top speed limited to 157km/h; because EVs lose a lot of battery life when driven continuously at high speed. Not sure how VW will cope with its German customers’ penchant for max speed on the autobahnen!

The concept looks interesting, but expect to see the rear ‘suicide doors’ ditched on the production version.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DRIVEN PERSONALITIES - PAUL GOVER

In the huge pantheon of friendships I’ve created over the years I count myself very fortunate to have met and befriended great car designers; great car company CEOS; great artists; great drivers; great writers and some special friends whose skills encompass a few things outside their primary talent.

One of those is my very dear friend Paul Gover, who lives nearby me on the Queensland Gold Coast, and through his generosity and help, I am able to drive many new cars which might otherwise not be available to a mere Blog Publisher.

Despite the global reach of my Blog, and the thousands of page views it enjoys each month, car companies tend to greet most of my requests to drive a new model with a sniff of arrogance, and then silence down the phone line.

So, thanks to Paul’s support, followers of DRIVING & LIFE can see some quite exotic machinery ‘on my drive’.

I first met Paul when I was PR Director for Leyland Australia (later changed to JRA Limited) and he was writing an automotive column for The Canberra Times – the daily newspaper published in Australia’s national capitol. We quickly recognized we enjoyed communicating on the same wavelength, and shared many common views of cars, car companies, and car industry people.

By that I mean we became instant friends and have remained so ever since.

Paul, like many automotive journalists, changed jobs, publications and roles – even delving into the hidden depths of mystery, known as automotive PR.

The one thing however was very clear. 

Paul Gover is also a driver with great skill and natural ability. 

This means that along his career path he has been invited to drive some very exotic, very special and very fast cars. 

He has also competed in professional motor sport behind the wheel of both racing and rally cars.

Paul is acknowledged now as Australia’ most senior, continuous automotive writer, because he’s outlasted most of the ‘senior chaps’, and currently is a freelance writer writing for a variety of print and online publications.

He is also in demand as a advisor for a variety of car companies as they plan new model launches; and he appears regularly on Neil Mitchell's national 3AW radio program, talking cars. What else would you expect?

2019 VW Toureg launch, Marrakesh
He remains high on the list of those invited to the ‘special’ car launch events, so he’s still racking up the kilometres, which add to his broad and deep perspective on the car industry.

I decided that the best way I could pay an appropriate tribute to my friend was to illustrate this post with Paul behind the wheel of a number of competitive cars - including, unlike any other Australian automotive writer, laps of Circuit Paul Ricard in France driving on the same track with Spaniard Luis Pérez Sala, who at the time was driving for Minardi F1.

Paul Gover, Renault F1, Circuit Paul Ricard 2007
Having very high regard for Paul’s abilities, Renault Australia paid for a place for Paul to drive the then current Renault F1 car in 2007, and was warmly congratulated by the Renault team, and Sala, for the highly competitive lap times he turned in.

Paul has raced at a number of Australian circuits, including the famous Mount Panorama at Bathurst, and also in the United States.

He has also thrashed through forests and tricky, narrow tracks in some of the world’s most expensive rally cars, notably this year's Skoda and Toyota competitors.

You don't let just anyone get behind the wheel of these high-tech babies.

Paul’s ability to easily relate to professional drivers, and communicate about driving tactics at the highest level is why many in the global automotive industry, and motor sport circles, hold him in such high regard.

Paul Gover has led a fortunate life, and I’m very fortunate to call him my friend.

Paul and his son Eli, and a recalcitrant 'Riley' the cat

Friday, December 14, 2018

ALLIANCE ABOLISHED?

Could the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance disappear in a puff of exhaust smoke?


Yes, if Nissan manages to extricate itself from the mess it has created, by attempting to oust Carlos Ghosn in one of the clumsiest corporate coups I have ever witnessed.

There are journalists the world over – business, general and automotive – who are currently writing the greatest load of drivel I have seen about the charges brought against Carlos Ghosn – intended to provide Nissan with a reason to boot him off the Board, and cancel his role as Chairman.

The media writes as if some unknown force is moving through the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance which appears to have magically-appeared, and which will kill off one of the most successful alliances the automotive world has seen in recent times, because of the alleged misdeeds of one of the car industry's most-respected chief executives.

To balance this view, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the media DOES know what's going on, but no-one wants to put it in print.

Let me explain what this whole deal is all about – in very simple words.

This whole mess is about Japanese loss-of-face – nothing more, nothing less.


For the sake of history, I will re-state that Carlos Ghosn came along and dug Nissan out of the poo it had created for itself with bad business models, over-investing in over-capacity, and building too many different cars on too many different platforms. Also it should be said, with little oversight of rampaging costs.

Very quickly, Ghosn’s laser-like focus zeroed in on the multitude of problems and pulled Nissan back from the edge of the abyss.

He later approached the then stultified and poor quality Nissan management with an idea that Renault and Nissan create an alliance – share platforms, cut costs, cut capacity, and do all the sensible things which are basic teachings at places like the Harvard Business School.

The time scale doesn’t matter, because lurking in the background was a cadre of younger Nissan managers who hated the very thought of the French company taking control of Japan’s number two carmaker – even if it did save its corporate arse. One of the group was Hiroto Saikawa.

The Alliance immediately began to make sense for both manufacturers and Nissan, as well as Renault, enjoyed the fruits of sharing technologies, research and development, and innovative manufacturing techniques.

However, all along the Renault-haters were hiding their light under a bushel, biding their time.

The Alliance became so successful that Ghosn could see that adding the struggling Mitsubishi would ensure that the Group had fingers in every automotive sector, and could leverage each manufacturer’s specialties and brand strengths.

To be fair here, is the current status of the Renault-Nissan  Alliance, and it's understandable to see why Nissan appears to have been driven to desperate, but ill-considered moves.

Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan and has the power to appoint execs. Nissan owns 15 percent of Renault, and has no voting rights. There is also resentment at Ghosn’s salary, which was reportedly considerably higher than that paid to any Japanese auto industry exec.

Nissan considers itself the stronger partner, and also wants to retain control of its considerable cash reserves.

In 2016 Ghosn, who clearly had a lot on his plate, and under pressure from Saikawa and the Nissan Board, decided to relinquish the Nissan CEO job to Saikawa.

Success at last!

Well, let’s say Step One was achieved in dragging Nissan further away from any French influence.

Then things get complicated. Nissan insinuates that Carlos Ghosn has been a naughty boy and not correctly stating his income from Nissan in the Nissan Corporate Tax filings. Now, anyone who runs a business knows that reporting is the sole responsibility of the company, not the individual.

The rumours of mis-reporting then reached the Renault Board, which to date, has swung all its support behind Carlos Ghosn. Ghosn is a French citizen, and a French taxpayer. If he’s going to get in trouble with tax authorities it will be in France, not Japan.

Now comes the news that this whole thing began with a Nissan whistleblower who allowed the misreporting transgression to be spread in a way to devastatingly damage Ghosn beyond rescue and thus be declared unsuitable to be Nissan Chairman.

Now, I don’t know if Carlos Ghosn is guilty as charged, but I very much doubt it. I have the highest regard for him as a forceful, insightful, experienced and resolute automotive executive. He is paid piles of cash by Renault, and is not a person who needs to understate his Japanese income.

To give you an idea how clumsy this attempt is; now Nissan and in fact Saikawa, are also now under investigation, because the investigators have admitted that corporate reporting is the responsibility of companies, so they are now looking into what part Saikawa may have played.

Of course, under Japan’s confusing, ambiguous and opaque business regulations, I am certain Saikawa-san will be found innocent, and all the blame shifted to Ghosn.

There is one other element that may be the driver for the Japanese. Apparently Ghosn had suggested that Renault could make a play for absorbing Nissan – and that would certainly upset the Japanese – so they would want Ghosn out before that train left the station.

So the sake of ‘saving face’ and regaining control of its own future, Nissan is prepared to go through this under-reporting charade, and in the process damaging the reputation of one of the automotive world’s highest achievers.

Here’s how I think this play out. There will be a strong, deep and exhaustive investigation, taking a few months. This, I am certain, will prove nothing, and it will be suggested to Ghosn that if he were to plead to some minor criminal offence, then he will pay a fine, and go back to France with his tail between his legs.

Actually, I sincerely believe the Japanese have grossly misunder-estimated Carlos Ghosn, and his resolve.

I don't think it will be long before he is back alongside his glamourous wife Carole, and again pushing his company to achieve even greater success

The Saikawa squad will then take over running Nissan-Infiniti (now there’s a brand with no future without Ghosn), and I suspect in a number of years Nissan will become corporate roadkill.

If the way Nissan has handled the separation of itself from Carlos Ghosn is any guide, I can only expect that it will once again drive itself to the edge of the abyss.