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Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to launch 12 zero-emission vehicles and a robo-taxi by 2022, chief says

  • Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi launched its six-year strategy, called Alliance 2022
  • Plan includes 12 zero-emission vehicles
  • Introduction of robo-taxi: a driverless, ride-hailing service
  • Revenue estimate of €220 billion for 2022 from current €180 billion

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance plans to launch 12 new, zero-emission electric vehicles by 2022, the company's chief told CNBC in an exclusive interview.

Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, on Friday announced Alliance 2022, the group's new six-year plan.

The Alliance also plans to introduce 40 vehicles with varying levels of autonomy. A robo-vehicle ride-hailing service is also in the works.

"This is going to develop mainly for commercial users," Ghosn said of the robo-vehicle. "There is a lot of demand for many companies like Uber or others. And we intend to compete, because in a certain way, we are able to have the technology allowing the car without the driver."

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, speaks during a news conference in Paris, France, September 15, 2017.
Philippe Wojazer | Reuters
Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, speaks during a news conference in Paris, France, September 15, 2017.

Ghosn also said that the Alliance is "going to double the synergies" between the formerly separate companies from €5 billion to €10 billion on an annual basis by 2022. It aims to achieve this by increasing collaboration between Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi Motors on common platforms, powertrains and next-generation electric, autonomous and connected technologies.

"Obviously part of this increase will come from the growth of each company which mean the area where we are already cooperating, synergies are going to grow because of the growth of the companies," Ghosn said.

He further added that the forecast is that by the end of the plan, the three companies, which sold about 10 million cars in 2016, will sell 10.5 million in 2017 and 14 million by the end of the plan.

The alliance is focused on reducing battery costs in its electric vehicles — aiming for 30 percent reduction and a 15-minute charging time for a 230 km range (143 miles) by 2022. Ghosn, however, cited some concerns about the necessary raw materials.

"This is a risk. I think it's very remote. We have evaluated the capacity of production of lithium and the capacity that can be made available very quickly," he said. "We don't think this is going to be a bottleneck at least for the next 5-6 years."

'A lot of concept cars'

Ghosn's vision is for cars that are electric, autonomous and connected: "A lot of concept cars. It's about electric. Plus the fact that many governments are starting to make bold statements about the transportation of the future and the fact that zero-emission is at the center of their preoccupation."

Notably, while other automakers such as Volvo and Volkswagen have ruled out the production of diesel and fuel cars in the future, Ghosn confirmed that the Alliance will continue to produce those vehicles.

Ryan Dapello cleans a Nissan Leaf with piloted parking before a media preview of autonomous Renault-Nissan Alliance vehicles in Sunnyvale, California January 7, 2016.
Noah Berger | Reuters
Ryan Dapello cleans a Nissan Leaf with piloted parking before a media preview of autonomous Renault-Nissan Alliance vehicles in Sunnyvale, California January 7, 2016.

The Alliance's biggest markets remain China, Russia and Southeast Asia. Both the United States and Mexico are big markets, but Ghosn doesn't see the growth opportunities increasing in these markets.

The status of the North African Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a concern, but Ghosn said he isn't particularly worried as it a 20-year-old agreement that needs to be adapted to reality today.

"But I think everybody has an interest in NAFTA, this is something which has been done in function, in the interests of the United States, of Mexico and Canada," he said. "So I'm very personally confident that even if there are some changes on NAFTA, it will stay, because it's in the best interest of the three countries."

French reforms and Brexit

Ghosn signaled support for French President Emmanuel Macron's labor reforms. He told CNBC that the company welcomes reforms that will make the work environment in France more competitive.

In 2015, the French government upped its stake in Renault when Macron was the economy minister. But Ghosn said it may look at reducing its stake in the future: "They promised they would do it, so there is no reason to doubt this promise."

While uncertainties such as the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union continue to dominate the corporate world, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance remains committed to the UK and to its Sunderland auto plant, which produced almost 500,000 cars last year, according to Ghosn.

Nissan has announced that it will continue to build the latest model of its best-selling electric car "Leaf" at that facility. Ghosn added that "until we know exactly what Brexit means, it's very difficult to make a decision in the dark."

Ghosn became the chairman of Mitsubishi Motors last December — two months after Nissan purchased a 34 percent stake in the company.

As part of a re-branding effort, the expanded alliance on Friday also revealed its new logo.