The vestiges of Carlos Ghosn’s reign at Nissan continue to crumble. This week, it was reported that the former CEO’s revival of Datsun branded cars has ceased production after falling far short of sales expectations. The news comes hot on the heels of a separate report that Renault is considering selling off a a sizeable chunk of Nissan shares, unraveling the alliance that Ghosn considered his crowning achievement. Also, Ghosn is now wanted in France as well.
Back in 2013 then-CEO Carlos Ghosn resurrected the Datsun brand as a way to expand into what he termed rising markets. It offered stripped-down cars using previous-generation tech to save costs in regions like Russia, India, South Africa, and southeast Asia. It was all part of Ghosn’s plan to expand rapidly so he could claim the Renault-Nissan Alliance as the world’s largest automaker and cement his legacy as its mastermind, even if it Nissan’s products and brand value languished.
Ghosn expected sales of 300,000 per year, but since the cars debuted in 2014, only about 470,000 units have sold in total, according to Automotive News. The article states that the last factory to produce Datsun, located in Chennai, India, quietly wound down last month. India was supposed to be one of Datsun’s major markets, but analyst group LMC Automotive says it sold only 4,296 cars there in 2021, a drop of 40 percent.
That’s not the only pillar of Ghosn’s legacy that’s falling apart. There have been whispers that Renault is considering selling part of its 43 percent stake in Nissan in order to fund its own EV spinoff. Ghosn had hoped to irreversibly merge the two companies, a move that many believe prompted Nissan insiders to oust him by way of arrest, accusing him of financial malfeasance. Ghosn subsequently became an international fugitive when he fled Japan in a musical instrument case.
As it turns out he is now wanted in France as well, a country where he holds citizenship and built his career, first at Michelin and then Renault. But literally on the very same day as the news of Renault’s selling of Nissan shares, French authorities issued five international arrest warrants for Ghosn. Prosecutors allege that Ghosn embezzled millions from Renault and used the funds to purchase, among other things, a 120-foot yacht for himself.
The scheme allegedly used a business in a third country, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles of Oman, to hide the cash flow. The description follows similar pattern to one at Nissan, where Ghosn was accused of setting up a shell company in the Netherlands to channel money into the purchase of multi-million dollar houses.
As for Datsun, the Automotive News article says the brand’s future is being debated right now. Rebranding it for an entry-level EV line is one course of action being considered. In any case, Datsun’s shuttering is part of a long-term plan announced in 2020 to return focus to its core brands, Nissan and Infiniti.
NISSAN SHOULD LEARN SURVIVAL LESSONS FROM TOYOTA; STILL THE PREEMINENT CAR MAKER. NEVER TRUST THE FRENCH ANYWAY!
I think Nissan and Renault still make a lot of sense as an alliance. But only as a much closer one (literally a merger). Renault needs Nissan for North America, Nissan needs Renault for Europe, and they can specialize in other parts of the world. It makes no sense for them to split their EV efforts since between them they are the only traditional automaker with as much EV experience as Tesla, and unlike Tesla, actually making affordable EVs.
But it seems like Ghosn has really poisoned the well for both firms, which is a tragedy. They could have achieved greatness. Instead they have only been perpiheral.
Maybe Japan wasn’t crazy in charging him with financial malfeasance…
Honestly, other than his clearing out of the overly deferential management behaviour (which might have come back to haunt him), he didn’t actually do anything that improve Nissan. If anything, he made them worse by getting in the way of everything they did well, and not fixing the things that were wrong.