It is almost two years since Makoto Uchida became Nissan CEO in the wake of not only the high-profile criminal case against Carlos Ghosn, but also his predecessor’s failed expansion strategy that has resulted in a multi-billion-dollar loss for the company, its worst for 20 years.
After implementing a huge reorganisation plan, Uchida should return Nissan to profitability this year. He is now preparing the firm for a big expansion of electrified models, including a new Nissan Leaf-replacing crossoverthat will come from the £1 billion investment in Nissan’s Sunderland factory.
Autocar spoke with Uchida for the first time during his recent visit to the UK.
Is there any doubt over the future of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance?
“The Alliance is something we have a lot of experience with. When I took the CEO job, we sat down to look at what went where. We have access to each other’s technology, and we look at how to maximise this for scale, for cost-effectiveness. For example, we have the same battery specification as Renault. We can then enjoy the cost-effectiveness and volume. Across three brands, that’s really something. So the Alliance is globally using each other’s assets to grow each company. There are no internal discussions at all [on the Alliance’s future]. I’d ask the same question from the outside – but inside, never. I’m not lying; we’re really focused on how the Alliance can grow each brand.”
Solid-state batteries always seem to be a couple of years away. When will there finally be the long-promised breakthrough in battery technology?
“Cobalt-less batteries are coming. Beyond that, it’s solid state. We will be very [cost] competitive, as without that we would not be able to survive.”
Can you make a business out of being a mobility company?
“It’s different in different markets. Car sharing is dominant in China, but not in Japan or elsewhere. We’re experimenting in Japan [with mobility services] in one city, doing lots of experiments. We’ll be growing that in the future. Is it going to make a business? [We’re] still on the way. Not straight away. We’re looking at how we can contribute to society with these solutions. This is different to autonomous driving and our goal to improve safety to zero fatalities in a Nissan.”
How big will Nissan’s range of cars be in the future? Will it include small cars?
“Do we have sufficient cars now? Worldwide, it’s too many. We need to maximise volume initially with electrification. The customer will decide if the cars are big or small.”
How is the development of autonomous cars progressing?