Published on March 9th, 2019 | by Maarten Vinkhuyzen
March 9th, 2019 by Maarten Vinkhuyzen
On March 9th, 1954, Carlos Ghosn was born in Brazil. A full 65 years later, the best we can say about this day is that he did not spend the day in jail.
This should be a day to celebrate the man who built the world’s largest car conglomerate, by first saving Renault and then Nissan from the financial abyss, joining them in an Alliance that proved more enduring than the mergers popular in the car industry at the turn of the century.
Instead, he is without a job, humiliated, free on bail (which can be better described as light house arrest), waiting to be tried for actions that would not be crimes (at most misdemeanors) in many other countries, and are actually actions that he likely did not commit.
If there is any justice in the Japanese courts for him, he will be acquitted this summer and be a free man again. Besides some lawsuits to regain over a $100 million in severance and retirement pay that this Japanese prosecution cost him, I hope he is willing to prove his worth for the automotive industry one last time.
While preparing the story about the Osborne effect on the car industry, the hope was that two men could move the industry in the right direction: Elon Musk scaring them to do the right thing from the outside, and Carlos Ghosn showing that it was possible and profitable from the inside. The assumption was that Carlos Ghosn would use the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to light the way.
Unless he is reinstated as the CEO of the Alliance — the best but probably most unrealistic outcome — there are several other car companies in dire need of a captain that can steer them through the transition to 100% fully electric vehicles.
The first that come to mind are Toyota and Honda, but these are Japanese. There might be a trust issue towards the Japanese judicial system. Another problem case is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It has had a new CEO for a few months and it is too early to say he needs to be replaced or that he can save the company.
That leaves Ford and BMW as the most likely candidates in need of new management. If they continue in the way they are facing electrification right now, they won’t exist in a decade. Both have a single large shareholder that can hinder the implementation of the necessary changes, but that is something Carlos Ghosn is used to, with the French state having an outsized influence on Renault and the Alliance.
But these are considerations for a later date. For today, the most important thing is Carlos Ghosn is having this day with his family and friends.