Nissan is Japan's second largest carmaker (after Toyota, and well ahead of Honda), effectively controlled since 1999 by French group Renault. The company achieved a remarkable turnaround during the 2000s under Renault's trouble-shooting CEO Carlos Ghosn. At the end of the previous decade Nissan had been struggling under the weight of a crippling debt burden. Rescue discussions with several manufacturers came to nothing. Then France's Renault stepped in, picking up a large stake in the company. After a year of focused and ruthless cost-cutting by Ghosn, as well as a sell-off of unnecessary peripheral businesses, Nissan delivered its best performance for more than a decade in 2001. It continued to go from strength to strength over the course of the next 15 years, and in 2016 took a controlling stake in domestic rival Mitsubishi Motors. But all that progress came to a sudden halt in late 2018 when chairman Ghosn was arrested at Tokyo airport, accused by Japanese regulators of securities fraud. Removed from the boards of both Nissan and Renault, he remains under house arrest in Tokyo awaiting trial on charges which he vigorously denies. Nissan's performance had already begun to slow in several key markets, and Japanese board members were increasingly resentful of what they regard as Renault's excessive influence over Nissan's strategy. However, CEO Hiroto Saikawa struggled to improve performance over the following months, and sales in the US and Europe slipped as key managers became distracted by the intensive investigations into Nissan's finances and negotiations with Renault over the future of their alliance. Saikawa too was removed less than a year after Ghosn's arrest, and Makoto Uchida was appointed as CEO. An unwinding of the Renault-Nissan Alliance may well be on the cards in the near future. Nissan's revenues for the year to March 2019 were their lowest for three years at approx $104.4bn, while net income more than halved to approx $2.9bn. Performance has continued to slump since then. Nissan was the world's #4 car brand in 2018, though registrations slipped slightly to 5.08m vehicles. Sales are dominated by the company's three SUV models, the Qashqai, X- Trail and Rogue, with combined registrations of 1.4m units. (The Qashqai and X-Trail are sold under the Rogue name in the US). The Sylphy compact sedan, sold mainly in China and other Asian markets, rounds out the company's top four brands at 486k. The US is Nissan's biggest market, but volumes slumped 7% in 2018 to 1.34m vehicles. China is now close behind at 1.2m units. Some way behind sits Japan at 504k units. The Nissan brand is accompanied by luxury range Infiniti, and also entry-level Datsun, sold mainly in emerging markets.
Capsule checked 11th November 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Jan 2020: In an extraordinary and daring snub to the Japanese justice system, ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn skipped bail and fled to his original childhood home in Lebanon. Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon. He is understood to have escaped from long-term house arrest in Tokyo by hiding in an audio equipment case. Ghosn has spent more than a year in custody in Japan awaiting trial on what he argues are trumped-up charges of financial misconduct. The terms of his bail in Japan have been highly restrictive. Monitored at all time, he has been barred from using a smartphone or computer without supervision or even seeing his wife overe the holiday season; and no date had yet been set for his trial, raising the possibility of years still in detention. "I have not fled justice," he said in a brief media statement. "I have escaped injustice and political persecution." It is possible that Ghosn will still face trial in Lebanon in respect of the corruption charges brought against him by Japan, but the business leader feels that his home nation provides a more friendly legal environment.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Dec 2019: Nissan's new CEO Makoto Uchida took the first steps in improving group performance with plans to cancel production and distribution of the Datsun sub-brand in all markets except India. Datsun was reintroduced in 2013 as the group's entry-level brand for developing markets in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, with production in India, Russia and Indonesia. However, sales remained marginal. Production will now be stopped in Russia and Indonesia. India will become Datsun's only sales market.
Adbrands Daily Update 8th Sep 2019: Having abruptly dismissed CEO Hiroto Saikawa a month ago, Nissan named as his successor Makoto Uchida, previously president of Nissan China. Ashwani Gupta, currently chief operating officer of alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors, becomes chief operating officer.
Adbrands Daily Update 25th Sep 2019: "Mondays". The gags in TBWA New York's funny new film for Nissan's Murano model start low-key and then build to greater and greater levels of absurdity. There are some fine laugh-out-loud moments, especially an imaginative use of the car's rear parking camera and that flat-bed truck presentation. We think this boss should really be a little more appreciative of such hard-working and eager-to-please employees.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Sep 2019: Nissan's board dismissed CEO Hiroto Saikawa following an internal investigation which found he had received improper stock-based performance compensation worth around $440,000. That proved the final straw in long-simmering discontent over Nissan's recent performance, and the continuing furore over former chairman Carlos Ghosn. In 2013, when he was group EVP, Saikawa apparently asked colleagues to explore ways to increase his compensation. As a result, Nissan said, other unnamed employees had improperly falsified documents to increase his performance pay. Saikawa was unaware of any improper accounting, and has offered to repay the additional sum he received. However, he leaves the group with immediate effect and will be replaced on an interim basis by current COO Yasuhiro Yamauchi.
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