Flippant Remark Haunts Ghosn A Year Later

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
flippant remark haunts ghosn a year later

Less than a week before Nissan’s stockholder meeting on the 26th at the Pacifico in Yokohama, Carlos Ghosn’s inner circle in Paris and Yokohama finds itself chasing a warmed-over rumor. Today, Bloomberg writes that “Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn is considering stepping down before the company’s next mid-term business plan begins in about five years.” A source close to Ghosn calls it “absolute nonsense and a yawner.”

The rumor is a year old and is based on a flippant remark that was lost in translation. A year ago, when Nissan presented its six year plan dubbed “Power 88”, freelance columnist and occasional Nikkei-contributor Ferdinand Yamaguchi had an interview with Carlos Ghosn. Ghosn wanted to talk about Power 88. Yamaguchi wanted to talk about the next mid-term plan, the one after 2017. Ghosn did not. After some back and forth, Ghosn, who has a reputation for not suffering fools gladly, said: “Why do you ask about 2017? Who knows whether I still will be around.”

That dismissive remark found its way into Yamaguchi’s book titled “Eigo Dake Dewa Dame Nanoyo” (something like “It’s not good to only speak English.”) A year later, the book becomes the source for Bloomberg’s story that says that Ghosn told Yamaguchi a year ago “that this would be the last midterm plan he would commit to and that it’s unlikely he would remain CEO in 2017.”

Bloomberg strung this together with a statement by Koji Okuda, a mid-level manager at Nissan’s public affairs department in Yokohama. Okuda is quoted as saying:

“Ghosn has said this is the last mid-term plan he’ll commit to, meaning he may not stay here for the next mid-term period. We need to prepare for his possible departure within a five-year period.”

My contacts in Paris say that every sane company must have succession plans, in case the CEO walks in front of the proverbial bus, and it must do this even more if there is a rock star like Ghosn on stage.

When there is planned succession that does not involve contacts with public transport, likely candidates and crown princes usually are being moved into the limelight. Nothing of that nature is noticeable at Nissan. At public appearances, Ghosn is a solo act. The few times Ghosn is flanked by Lieutenants like Toshiyuki Shiga or Colin Dodge, they usually don’t say a word. Then later, they privately sigh that “we have been decoration again.”

Ghosn is 58 years old, a teenager compared to his peers in the business. Dan Akerson was 62 when he started his job. Martin Winterkorn is 65. Ferdinand Piech is 75.

Carlos Ghosn is on a 4 year contract at Renault, which expires in April 2014. His current 2-year term at Nissan expires in March 2013.

Apart from Bloomberg, a whole nation can’t wait for Ghosn to step down at Nissan and Renault. Ghosn is a hero in Lebanon, home of his grandfather and where Ghosn went to school. Ghosn has been repeatedly asked to run for President of the Lebanon. His answer: “I have no political ambitions.”

Join the conversation
4 of 7 comments
  • Robert Schwartz Robert Schwartz on Jun 21, 2012

    Ghosn, who has a reputation for not suffering fools gladly, said: “Why do you ask about 2017? Who knows whether I still will be around.” Well, we are all on shorter leashes than that. The Good Lord can call us home whenever he wishes. 2017 is five years from now. I could get lucky.

    • See 1 previous
    • "scarey" "scarey" on Jun 21, 2012

      @SCE to AUX GM may not be in North America in 2017. Who knows ? They may fold up their tents and steal off to Shanghai in the night.

  • Unhittable curveball Unhittable curveball on Jun 22, 2012

    Ghosn is the preserver of the alliance as he is the only one from Renault respected by the folks at Yokohama, and that is why he didn’t lose his job after last year’s “spy scandal” that turned out to be a farce: there were rumors circulating in Paris that Nissan will leave the alliance if Ghosn is sacked – a rumor Nissan HQ didn’t exactly deny, and the powers to be at the Elysée panicked about that prospect and thus Ghosn lived but his COO Patrick Pelata was sacked as a scapegoat to please the gods.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂