If you really want to know what’s going on in a car company, go to the men at the top. There’s no chance of crossed wires, indecision or sitting on the fence with answers – these are the guys that really know.
So it was fascinating to spend half an hour of yesterday’s Tokyo motor show in the company of Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.
He is clearly a man without loyalties. In a country as polite and unconfrontational as Japan, it was bordering on shocking to hear him so openly say that he would be willing to take even more production away from the country because it is “totally uncompetitive” to build cars for export there due to the continued strength of the yen.
Ghosn, who stood up throughout the press conference and made steely eye contact with all his questioners, said the knock-on effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami from earlier this year “were not a huge problem” for Nissan. “The yen is the problem, but it can no longer be a problem as we will move production out of Japan.” Strong stuff.
Japan may have its economic problems, but arguably those facing Europe are even greater. Ghosn was surprisingly optimistic in his prediction for the state of the new car market for Europe in 2012, saying it would “be a shock” if sales fell by as much as 10 per cent.