Nissan business strategy aims high and low

by Hiroko Nakata

Outlining key pillars of its business strategy for the years to come, Nissan Motor Co. said Tuesday it aims to become an industry leader in zero-emission vehicles and to cultivate emerging markets with low-cost cars.

The automaker also plans to increase overall sales by 5 percent annually in the next five business years to March 2013, Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn told a news conference in Tokyo.

Under the new medium-term plan, dubbed Nissan GT 2012, Ghosn said the focus is on growth and trust.

“We see evidence of two prominent trends — namely, the rapid emergence of developing markets and the recognized need for environmental solutions,” said Ghosn, who is also Renault SA’s chief executive.

Nissan will launch new electric vehicles (EVs) in fiscal 2010 in the U.S. and Japan and in fiscal 2012 in other markets. Together with ultralow-cost vehicles for emerging markets, they will be the main engines for future profit growth, the automaker said.

“Today, there is latent demand, but no offer. Nissan has an opportunity to mass-market an affordable car that is both independent from oil and environmentally neutral,” Ghosn said.

He also said Nissan will aim to expand sales by introducing 60 new models by fiscal 2012 and releasing more than 15 new technologies every year starting with fiscal 2009.

The planned EVs will use lithium-ion batteries to be produced by 2009 by a joint venture between Nissan and electronics maker NEC Corp. The joint venture was set up last year.

Automakers are currently introducing and developing various technologies in their bid to take the lead in the eco-friendly car market.

In a field led so far by Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrids, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. hope to gain ground with EVs, while Honda Motor Co. is focusing on fuel-cell vehicles.

Meanwhile, Indian carmaker Tata Motors stunned the auto industry by unveiling in January its Nano minicar priced at around $2,500.

On Monday, Nissan, Renault SA of France and Bajaj Auto Ltd. of India said they will form a joint venture to develop, produce and market cars priced as low as $2,500.

The joint venture, to be owned 50 percent by Bajaj Auto and 25 percent each by Renault and Nissan, will start sales in early 2011.