As Carlos Ghosn reflects upon life (presumably) at a detention centre somewhere in Tokyo, he would no doubt have fond memories of how he managed to overcome the odds and turned an ailing Nissan (reportedly up to USD$20 billion in debt in 1999) into a lean and profitable outfit within a span of a few years. No matter what happens to Ghosn in the coming weeks and months, the turnaround at Nissan will forever be remembered as one of the most inspirational achievements in corporate history.
But if Le Cost Cutter is perfectly honest with himself, he would also admit to a few failings over his reign at Nissan; one of which would be that under his stewardship, Nissan’s product line up had become too safe, too sober – something which got Nissan into trouble back in the 1990s, ironically.
Apart from the 350Z (introduced in 2002 and then refreshed as the 370Z thereafter) and of course the GT-R of 2007, which is still sold today as a current model 11 years later, the rest of the Nissan range have barely kept fans enthused. Okay, the Juke was a cute effort and had a good run, but even that is eight years old now.
The culture of prudence instilled by Ghosn no doubt benefitted the bottom line and shareholders, but it also stifled excitement. It’s easy on hindsight to say that Nissan’s EV hedge hasn’t quite paid off (it may yet still) but with precious resources channelled towards electrification, the engineering spirit associated with the Nissan brand never got to shine.
It is not too late to right things, which is why Nissan needs to get the sumptuous-looking Leaf NISMO RC (above) into production and make it the electric incarnation of the GT-R…minus the Porsche price tag. After the crushing demise of the 2013 rear-wheel drive IDx concept (which was inspired by the Datsun 510), it’s time for Nissan to put their money where their mouth is and not just make concepts to tease fans and onlookers. If sister company Renault can participate in Formula 1, find success with RS hot hatches and even revive Alpine with the rear-wheel drive A110 coupe, there’s no reason why Nissan can’t do the same.
(As of press time, Carlos Ghosn, former Nissan director Greg Kelly and Nissan have been charged for under-reporting Ghosn’s income. Both Ghosn and Kelly are still remanded at a detention centre in Tokyo for further investigations.)