By on January 23, 2020

Carlos Ghosn Rogue Introduction - Image: Nissan

There’s certainly no love lost between former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn and the automaker he once helmed. After trashing the company’s sales performance in a Lebanon media conference earlier this month, during which he again accused Nissan of conspiring with Japanese officials to orchestrate his arrest, we know hear he gives the automaker maybe two or three years before it hits rock bottom.

Rock bottom” is where former CEO Hiroto Saikawa said his company was at last May. Maybe there’s still a ways to go.

Ghosn, who purportedly fled Japanese captivity in a large music case in late December, was outspoken even before his clandestine flight from the country, where he was awaiting trial for alleged financial crimes. According to Ghosn’s lawyer, Nobuo Gohara, the ousted executive told him Nissan will be bankrupt by 2022.

Per Bloomberg, Gohara said during a Tokyo news conference, “He told me that Nissan will probably go bankrupt within two to three years.”

The prediction came during 10 hours of questioning that preceded his client’s escape from house arrest and Japanese justice. Ghosn maintains that he’s the victim of a corporate coup, flatly denies the charges against him, and claims he stood no chance of a fair trial in the notoriously incarceration-happy jurisdiction. Japan has issued an arrest warrant for both him and his wife, Carole.

“Nissan and prosecutors worked together to bring a criminal case against Ghosn,” Gohara stated. The lawyer had been working on a book at the time, one which now may never see print. The last time the two men spoke was two days before Ghosn’s escape, Gohara said.

In a lengthy Q&A with media following his arrival in Beirut, a safe country where he holds citizenship, Ghosn listed off the names of Nissan executives he believes played a role in his arrest, though neglected to list any Japanese officials.

Looking at Nissan’s sales and financial trajectory, many might claim Ghosn’s prediction holds water. While the company claims its cash reserves are healthy, the automaker capped off a dismal 2019 by reportedly ordering the cancellation of all non-essential flights and meetings in an attempt to save money wherever it can. A two-day furlough of all U.S. employees came in January, and a travel ban is said to be in place for the foreseeable future.

Last November, the company reported a 70-percent drop in second-quarter profit and cut its operating profit forecast by 35 percent. Sales plunged across the globe last year, though newly minted CEO Makoto Uchida claims a plan is in the works to turn things around.

[Image: Nissan]

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45 Comments on “No Hard Feelings: Ghosn Predicts Nissan Bankruptcy...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    On one hand I don’t trust the man that destroyed Nissans reputation by building rental fodder with CVTs that seem to compromise a disproportionate amount of space at every junkyard I’ve ever been to. On the other hand… well it’s not hard to believe.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    That’s OK, the Japanese government will prop them up indefinitely.

    for all of the whining about “Government Motors” we did 10 years ago, the extent which the Japanese govt’ has its tendrils woven throughout industry would make your arse pucker.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Absolutely, but given the economic and demographic situation in Japan I wonder how long such an arrangement would last?

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      JimZ

      Nissan builds very little in Japan, and sells very little in Japan.In it’s biggest markets
      North America – most vehicles are built in the Mexico and the U.S.
      China – most vehicles are built in China
      Europe- most vehicles are built in Renault factories
      South East Asia -most vehicles are built in Thailand
      IIn Japan Nissan is the 8th largest automaker. Would be a very small loss if they disappeared.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        regardless of what they sell where, they’re still a very large Japanese company and them going bust would be a loss of face for many people. It would not be a “very small loss” either.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        “Europe – most vehicles are built in Renault factories” You sure about that? The biggest Nissan factory over there is Nissan Sunderland in the UK, which turns out Qashqais or what is flogged to America as the Rogue Sport. It’s other major factory is in Spain. No Renaults are sold as Nissans there, so you’d be dead wrong. Ever heard of Google?

        Nissan is the fifth best selling vehicle line in Japan. After them it’s a giant drop in numbers to Mazda in sixth and Subaru in seventh.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          “Nissan is the fifth best selling vehicle line in Japan.” Correct – and the story improves more for Nissan if you exclude Kei cars and look at ‘standard car’ sales in Japan.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Time for your daily dose of Carlos “the Ghost” Ghosn.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So…Ghosn left Nissan in such bad shape that it’s going to go bankrupt in two to three years. This guy was in charge until a little more than a year ago, so if the company is in perilous shape now, it’s on him.

    Given that, how can anyone take his “I was pushed out unfairly by the board, and my arrest was just government-sanctioned boardroom intrigue” argument seriously? I never did, and now that he’s basically admitted that he ran the company into the ground, I really don’t.

    He was dirty, the board figured it out, and also figured out that the company was failing, so they whacked him. The board may have known he was dirty for a long time, but chose to put up with it because he was printing them money, but either way, this is all on Ghosn. Makes all kinds of sense.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      He might argue he was attempting to remedy the situation when he was incarcerated.

      “He was dirty, the board figured it out, and also figured out that he was running the ship into a rock, so they whacked him.”

      I’m still waiting for that evidence.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Could be, but the ship still started taking on water under his watch. All the stuff about using company to line his own pockets just gave the board a convenient excuse to get rid of him. Either way, far as I’m concerned, he opened himself up to everything that happened to him.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I read anecdotally Renault was planning to gain majority control of Nissan, backed by the French gov’t or something to that effect, and that is why Ghosn was ousted. Now I agree Nissan’s situation say 2010 to 2018 may have been a result of poor decisions on his part.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Both companies, separately, are backed by their governments with heavy investments like Treasuries and Pension funds.

            Question becomes, which of these governments will elect to play second fiddle and let the other government decide their financial fate for them?

            Which country is richer? Japan or France? Which is willing to carry the other?

            I hope they don’t get the US taxpayers to fund this wet dream through the IMF with grants or loans.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      But didn’t he save Nissan too in 2000s? Sometimes those strategies that save businesses aren’t good for the long term though.

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      So, in just the space of a year, Nissan’s fortunes have taken such a turn for the worse…

      From the genius of Ghosn to….gone in 2-3 years?

      How can this be?

      Here is what y’all don’t understand…What Ghosn is saying is that, “without me” or “sans moi”, Nissan est finis! It’s over.

      Like 99% of CEOs, he grasps what the other 99% of the 99% do not…that without HIM or his type, all is lost.

      The decades of cheapening (I can recall when Nissan interiors were the equivalent of Toyota/Honda, and when people paid relatively big money for Maximas in the 80s/90s) , the hideously ugly styling, augmented by CVTs, these would cripple a carmaker with mere mortals at the helm–but not with a man of the caliber of the great one.

      To paraprhase Madeline Albright, we (I) are the exceptional nation (CEO); we (I) see farther and better what needs to be done (well, perhaps this is not a good metaphor for the diminutive Mr. Ghosn).

      And in America, now that the Americans have exited cars, you would think that would help Nissan. It should–but one look at their cars (and for the majority of the 99%, one look is painful enough) shows why this is not to be…

  • avatar
    NN

    The saga of Nissan is really a heck of a business story. In the 80’s and 90’s Nissan was so good. The 1990’s era Maxima, the “4 door sports car” was one of the most indestructible cars ever made. The original Pathfinder, Hardbody pickup, Pulsar, Sentra SE-R, 240, first gen Altima…all great cars that had design and engineering prowess, a sense of pride instilled in them.
    The merger with Renault and their search for volume over quality, rental and low-credit sales, endless droning boring CVT’s seems a practice in corporate evisceration. There is no difference between Sentra, Altima, or Maxima save for size–the recipe & style is otherwise the same. The Nissan Z for god’s sake has been the same car since 2003.
    I bought a Nissan Quest in 2014 because of it’s JDM style and manufacture, it was really the only “interesting” minivan at the time in my mind. Now it has 120k miles on it, has been good to us, and we’re still fans of it, CVT and all (which doesn’t matter much in a minivan). Of course they discontinued it. At the local car show last week I walked right through the Nissan display, there’s nothing interesting to me save for the Armada, which I’ve already had as a rental so I don’t need to sit in it at a car show. That is basically a 2020 model year 1995 Toyota Land Cruiser with a Nissan badge. I like it because it is the closest thing to Nissan’s past glory.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I would have loved to have been able to purchase new a Maxima from the late brougham period until the cancelation of the manual trans as an option.

      Now I have zero interest in one.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        I had a 2003 Maxima SE and DPP with the 265bhp 3.5L V6 and the six speed manual. I REALLY liked driving that car, though it certainly had its share of weaknesses. Among those weakness were: 1) HORRENDOUS torque steer–which I greatly enjoyed inducing! 2) Fugly grille/front end styling treatment 3) General sense of cheapness relating to interior accouterments. For a car that was $33k at the time, the interior quality was a disappointment.

        One curiosity I found amusing was that the cruise control would set at 92 mph, but not 93 mph or higher. I often imagined how the committee discussion that made that decision at Nissan HQ might have been structured….Legal…technical….marketing…did they all have their say? What were their comments?

  • avatar

    The main difference between GM and Nissan is that Nissan’s quality has never got as bad as GMs. Even now Nissan has scored much better than GM in the latest consumer reports reliability survey. I should also point out the Nissan is significantly larger than GM is now. If Nissan had GM’s quality they would have been out of business.

    Cadillac is still in last in reliability.

    Don’t fret Nissan you are not as bad as GM.

    What a disgrace!

    • 0 avatar
      crtfour

      Good point. I think part of the issue with Nissan is getting people in the door to look at them. Based on all the bad publicity Nissan was never really on my radar, but then I had an Armada as a rental and IMO it drove better and was a much nicer place to be than the Tahoe’s that I’ve driven. Then I checked out a Titan (have not driven one) & IMO the interior was much nicer than the Silverado and even Sierra. Now I’m actually considering a QX80 as the next vehicle. So at least based on these vehicle experiences, I’d spend my money on Nissan over GM.

    • 0 avatar
      GrayOne

      The CVTs Nissan are using are worse than anything GM is currently making.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The bankruptcy prediction is plausible, but the end of the alliance in that 2-3 year timeframe is probable.

    • 0 avatar
      1500cc

      I don’t think it’s plausible at all. Yes, they make cars we don’t like, and yes they’re on an overall downward trajectory. But for all of the negative news surrounding Nissan, they still made a profit last year. Many automakers go *years* racking up losses (and debt) and yet still remain viable. It’ll take more than 2-3 for things to get bad enough to trigger bankruptcy.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    The one segment where they make good strong products, they virtually ignore. In 2004 I bought a new Titan. I upgraded it with big brakes and Firestone airbags. 16 years later it has 170,000 miles and Ive replaced one radiator and one window motor. My daughter has a 2012 Frontier Pro4X that was indestructible until she accidentally backed it into a ditch and rolled it which caused it to be declared a total loss. Amazingly the insurance co gave her 20K for it. Why they wont offer these with more configurations and better tow weights is beyond me.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I lol’d at the headline.

  • avatar
    bkojote

    There’s a lot of talk that Ghosn ‘ruined’ Nissan’s product portfolio, but Renault/Ghosn was the best thing that ever happened to Nissan.

    20 years ago nobody wanted any Nissan products, and Nissan products were neither competitive nor desirable. Under Ghosn Nissan pretty much hit solid home runs through the 00’s with some of the most desirable marques the company ever made (G35, G37, GT-R, 350/370z, Frontier, The FX (has -any- vehicle’s styling held up so well?), The Xterra, and the mid-2000’s Pathfinder. Even the mid-2000’s Altima was way more desirable than its competition (this very site waxed poetic about it.) Yeah they went big on CVT’s, but this was the era of jank 4 speed autos and I remember the CVT’s being a revelation after driving my Legacy.

    I mean hell, I’d buy a 370z over a Supra and pocket the change, and I’d buy a Frontier over a Colorado or Ranger.

    Yeah Nissan as of late has been pushing out blander products and seem to be letting things whither on the vine for way too long, but it seems to be in correlation with the leadership changes that happened at Nissan ~8 years ago.

  • avatar
    SharkDiver

    Nissan reminds me of the Democrat Party…No where to go but down. Open borders, free health care to illegals, abortion up to birth, outlaw fossil fuel…What could go wrong?

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Don’t expect Nissan bankruptcy.

  • avatar

    “What a disgrace!”

    Usual GM is bad BS. If you say “It is a beautiful sunny day today” akears response will be “It is raining in GM HQ, what a disgrace!”

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “He told me that Nissan will probably go bankrupt within two to three years.”

    Probably not. Might happen but take longer, might not happen at all.

    (But as recent events have demonstrated, who knows what the future holds?)

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    Nissan has replaced the Koreans as a bottom of bin brand. As the Korean companies built increasingly appealing and reliable vehicles Nissan didn’t keep up with it’s Japanese and Korean competition. Nissan does have some good products but overall it portfolio of products especially in the higher margin vehicles is lacking.

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    Bought a 1994 Altima for the (ex) wife, she had some POS Mitsubishi when we met. It was an excellent car and passed around my family for college nieces and nephews. I mainly bought it because of the great experience I had buying a 1981 310 (at 18.9%!). It was a great car for my college years.

    But I also have a history of working for a Japanese company as the VP of Sales for the Americas. Lots of great trips to Tokyo and the Northern Prefecture staying at the company guest house, it was awesome.

    My experience when sales began to decline was to get the dreaded phone call about “why my sales forecasts didn’t show enough profit”. Didn’t matter if they couldn’t deliver the products I needed for my markets, I just needed to adjust my numbers. Maybe I was just complicit, but there was always a veiled implication that I needed to be a part of “the team”.

    I was never the CEO, but I do have interest in this because it was completely different to me than any US company I worked for. So much to hear that probably will never be reported.

  • avatar
    Victor

    No good can come from jumping in bed with Renault. See American Motors.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I’d still like to see the Fiat, Nissan, Chrysler, Renault, And Peugeot (FN CRAP) alliance come together. Until then, we have to settle for Chrysler, Ram, And Peugeot.

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