Monday, December 31, 2018


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.

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