Wed, Sep 28, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Japan’s yen policy puts output at risk, Nissan’s CEO says

Reuters, NEW YORK

Nissan Motor Co CEO Carlos Ghosn said the Japanese government’s efforts to rein in the rise of the yen had failed, forcing manufacturers to reduce investment in Japan and shift output elsewhere.

“If the Japanese government wants to really safeguard and develop employment, then something has to be done,” Ghosn said in an interview in New York. “We have been talking about this as an industry for a while. Unfortunately, it keeps happening. It looks like whatever effort has been done so far has not delivered results.”

“We have to have some vision of what is going to be the exchange rate landscape,” he added.

During the past two years, the US dollar has dropped from near ¥91 to just more than ¥76. The trend toward a stronger yen, which has accelerated since April, has forced Nissan to reevaluate investment in future vehicle production and to consider moving more production outside Japan, Ghosn said.

“We have to make investment decisions all the time,” he said. “This is one of the factors that we have to consider when we look at a project and say are we going to do it in Japan or are we going to do it in another country?”

Despite the pressure on Japan’s manufacturing base, Ghosn said there was no sign that global consumer demand was in retreat because of the debt crisis in Europe and economic uncertainty in the US. He said he expected that US vehicle sales would rise next year, without providing a detailed forecast.

“So far there is no sign of weakening, at least in the automotive sector,” he said.

The Japanese government said it would start implementing measures to combat the yen’s strength starting yesterday, the Japanese Cabinet Office said in Tokyo.

Financial institutions that would be involved in lending money from the state-run Japan Bank for International Cooperation to spur overseas purchases were to be notified yesterday, the government said in a statement.

Other measures, which range from providing subsidies for companies struggling to retain workers amid an appreciating currency and extending aid to small enterprises, will be implemented this month and next month, the Cabinet Office said.

The government had already announced the initiatives last week.

In the interview, Ghosn, who also heads Renault SA, said Nissan would build an electric car in China, now the world’s largest vehicle market.

However, he said the automaker was open to using the technology behind its battery-powered Leaf to build a different vehicle for the Chinese market depending on the final form of regulations that Beijing has been preparing on electric vehicles.

“We have the intention to go with an electric car in China, but we are still waiting for the Chinese government,” Ghosn said. “Without any doubt the technology that is the basis of the Nissan Leaf — if it is not the Nissan Leaf itself — will be present in our operations in China.”

Nissan exports the all-electric Leaf from Japan and has plans under way for production in the US and the UK.

Nissan, which trails Toyota Motor Corp in traditional hybrids, projects that all-electric vehicles will account for up to 10 percent of global auto sales by 2020. As of this month, sales of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, a General Motors Co plug-in that can also be driven in all-electric mode, accounted for about 0.1 percent of US auto sales.

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