Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn talks 2014, says trucks and compacts are 'it'
Just before the Detroit motor show, the biggest auto show of the year for the North American market, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn sat down to talk about what will be happening in 2014 for the company and where he believes the automotive market is headed in the near-term.
Here are some highlights, including a surprisingly candid admission as to where growth in the 2014 U.S. market will likely come. Growth that Nissan is only partially ready to capture, but Ghosn is confident that this will change.
Speaking about the 2013 year, Ghosn recapped what he saw as the growth trends globally and in North America and why this didn't mean a taller bottom line for the company last year.
I think 2013 has been a year of growth without any doubt, globally, and also at the level of North America. I would say particularly in the North American market, it is a growth, which has taken place within our strategy where we have been investing a lot in terms of product and technology and also in terms of capacity. That is why this growth in a certain way did not translate immediately in 2013 with a kind of similar increase of profitability. So it was a very good year in terms of growth, profit a little bit backtracked, but without any doubt in the years to come, when all the capacities and the products in which we have been investing will come to the market, there will be catch up.
This improvement in capacity and manufacturing diversity means that going forward, Nissan is better positioned than most of its competitors in terms of flexibility and growth potential. This means it will be able to keep up with demand as it grows and adapt to market trends quickly in order to stay ahead of the game. Something competitors like Toyota cannot easily do right now, with strained production capacity and a dearth of older facilities.
For 2014, Nissan restructured, doubling its regions from three to six and shuffling management to accommodate this change. Doing so has added to the boosted production flexibility. With sales nearly doubling in just a few years, Nissan had to adapt to the extreme market growth as well as the demands that more focused regional operations could allay.
The bombshell, however, was when Ghosn talked about the 2014 North American market and where he saw it going in terms of growth areas. Most in the industry agree that growth will be driven primarily by full-sized pickups and the new popularity of compact cars, which Ghosn reiterated. The CEO does not believe, however, that the fast-paced growth of the last three years will continue and sees 2014 as being more moderate, going from 15.6 million units in the U.S. annually to sales of not more than 16 million for 2014. He sees large pickup trucks, a spot where Nissan is not yet competitive, crossovers and compact cars as the key markets for this year. In the latter two, Nissan is well-positioned with new entries like the 2014 Rogue and the 2014 Versa as key players there. The Titan, however, is Nissan's full-sized truck and it is long overdue for a revamp, but will not be getting one this model year.
Ghosn says that the focus for the company this year in the North American market will be on manufacturing quality and cross-competitiveness in the market. These will mean being top-level in terms of competitiveness, which is what Nissan has to do if the company wants to continue growing.
Watch the entire interview here: