This week’s news that Carlos Ghosn is stepping down as CEO of Nissan will send a tremor through the Daichi Tamachi tower block in the Minato-ku area of Tokyo.
Floor five of that sober office is the front door into Mitsubishi Motors, now part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which took control in October last year for £1.7 billion. Now the alliance's chief, Ghosn, is about to turn his beady eye on its new partner.
So far, Nissan has kept quiet about its plans for Mitsubishi, referring to “synergies to enhance profit margins” and it is true that Mitsubishi doesn’t need slash-and-burn, largely because the past decade has been filled with restructuring.
The global factory network, for example, which once included European, US and Australian plants, has been slimmed to three assembly plants in Japan – Ozazaki, Mizushima, Sakagura – plus Thailand and Philippines pick-up and commercial plants.
Engines and transmissions are sourced from two powertrain plants, one in Kyoto and the other in Shiga, plus an Asian site for the pick-ups.
And five R&D centres support production with design and development.
What Mitsubishi needs urgently is the dynamism of product planning and decision-making that Ghosn has proven very adept at since Renault merged with Nissan in 1999. Particularly putting investment into the right products with the right quality. Mitsubishi has a good foundation, its plug-in hybrid technology is cutting-edge and its global dealer network is an asset.
Ghosn has already told the Automotive News trade publication that his plan is “massive” and will involve co-operation with both Nissan and Renault. The US is said to be a huge focus, which could mean a return to US manufacture.
Mitsubishi’s new product pipeline needs a number of significant decisions, which will put Ghosn back in contact with the former head of design at Nissan luxury brand Infiniti, Tsunehiro Kunimoto, who joined Mitsubishi two years ago and has created the ‘Dynamic Shield’ graphic for future models.
I expect Ghosn to breathe life into Mitsubishi’s well-regarded but moribund Shogun brand, which has global potential to tap into the demand for SUVs.
At the Paris motor show in October 2016, Kunimoto admitted that Mitsubishi “didn’t know what to do to replace the Shogun”.
Expect Ghosn to allocate a group SUV platform/budget and tell Mitsubishi to produce a new Shogun family by the end of next week. Or else.
A full-sized saloon and US pick-ups based on Nissan North America platforms are also expected to be on the wish list.
In Europe, Mitsubishi has a new crossover on the way, the Eclipse Cross for Geneva, which will boost sales in a growing market.
But its five-model range covers only a small portion of the market. There is no supermini, family hatch or city car but these are omissions forced by a lack of investment and this can be fixed by sharing Renault-Nissan group platforms.
Mitsubishi's standout success is the plug-in hybrid technology in the Outlander, whose development Ghosn can be expected to accelerate.
Hold on, Mitsubishi. You’re in for a wild ride. But it should be worthwhile in the long run.