The Global Leadership of Carlos Ghosn at Nissan
“I did not try to learn too much about Japan before coming, because I didn’t want to have too
many preconceived ideas. I wanted to discover Japan by being in Japan with Japanese people.”1
“Well, I think I am a practical person. I know I may fail at any moment. In my opinion, it was
extremely helpful to be practical [at Nissan], not to be arrogant, and to realize that I could fail
at any moment.”
Carlos Ghosn, 2002
Nissan had been incurring losses for seven of the prior eight years when, in March 1999, Carlos Ghosn
(pronounced GOHN) took over as the first non-Japanese Chief Operating Officer of Nissan. Many
industry analysts anticipated a culture clash between the French leadership style and his new Japanese
employees. For these analysts, the decision to bring Ghosn in came at the worst possible time because
the financial situation at Nissan had become critical. The continuing losses were resulting in debts
(approximately $22 billion) that were shaking the confidence of suppliers and financiers alike. Furthermore, the Nissan brand was weakening in the minds of consumers due to a product portfolio that consisted of models far older than competitors. In fact, only four of the company’s 43 models turned a profit. With little liquid capital available for new product development, there was no indication that Nissan would see increases in either margin or volume of sales to overcome the losses. The next leader of Nissan was either going to turn Nissan around within two to three years, or the company faced the prospect of going out of business. Realizing the immediacy of the task at hand, Ghosn boldly pledged to step down if Nissan did not show a profit by March 2001, just two years after he assumed duties. But it only took eighteen months (October 2000) for him to shock critics and supporters alike when Nissan began to operate profitably under... [continua]
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