Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Is it gut-check time for Ghosn? You bet!


If you woke up early this morning and saw the wire reports out of France, you would have seen the latest earnings and comments from the man who many consider to be the best CEO in the auto industry - Carlos Ghosn. The CEO's two company's just posted awful quarterly earnings. Renault down 15% and Nissan down 23%.

Is it gut-check time for Ghosn? You bet.

After seven years of steadily growing earnings (and saving Nissan from going out of business) Ghosn and his team stumbled in 2006. In fact, the company just issued it's first profit warning under Ghosn.

What's gone wrong? Sales slumped in the U.S. Due to an aging line-up, and new models that have not sold as well as anticipated. In Europe, Renault is facing fierce competition leading that part of Ghosn's company to launch a turnaround plan targeting completion in 2009.

As for Nissan, Ghosn says he will announce corrective measures in April. What they are remains to be seen. The look of some of the redesigned and new models (Altima and Versa for example) is impressive.

But clearly, Nissan's lost momentum with buyers.

I won't go so far as to say the folks at GM are chortling over Ghosn's stumble. But many told me during last year's talks between GM and Renault-Nissan, "who's to say Ghosn is a better person to run GM than Rick Wagoner". Ghosn said publicly that he never wanted to run GM. But the feeling in Detroit is that Ghosn was being anointed as a savior when his own companies were struggling.

Gut-check time for Ghosn? Absolutely.

Questions?  Comments?