Europe gains from Nissan devolution

Nissan’s European design centres at Cranfield and Munich are likely to have greater responsibility for new European models under the company’s revival plan, announced on Monday. The plan, unveiled by chief operating officer Carlos Ghosn, is intended to restore Nissan to profitability by the 2000/01 financial year. It involves 21,000 job cuts worldwide, the closure […]

Nissan’s European design centres at Cranfield and Munich are likely to have greater responsibility for new European models under the company’s revival plan, announced on Monday.

The plan, unveiled by chief operating officer Carlos Ghosn, is intended to restore Nissan to profitability by the 2000/01 financial year.

It involves 21,000 job cuts worldwide, the closure of three car assembly plants and two powertrain plants in Japan, rationalisation of Nissan’s unwieldy range, and a programme to cut costs by working more closely with suppliers.

Ghosn said: `Research and development will be reorganised to give regions more responsibility for their entire product line.’

The new Almera, unveiled at this week’s London Motor Show and due to go into production in the New Year at Sunderland, is the first Nissan to be designed specifically for the European market.

Ghosn gained a reputation as `le-cost killer’ at Renault, which took a 36.8% stake in Nissan in March this year. His plan depends heavily on platform sharing between Renault and Nissan and drastically reducing supplier numbers.

Ghosn said Nissan’s European car range would be completely replaced by 2003. Nissan would move from producing 24 platforms at seven assembly plants in Japan to 12 platforms in four plants in 2004.

The first common platform will be shared between the Renault Clio and Twingo and their Nissan equivalents, the Micra and Cube.

The Sunderland factory, Europe’s most productive car plant, escapes unscathed, but there has been speculation that it will go over to producing the Micra/Clio exclusively.

Dr Paul Niewenhuis, assistant director of Cardiff Business School’s centre for automotive industry research, said: `Murayama, the main site for producing the Micra in Japan, is to be closed so it looks as if they may be planning to only make that platform outside Japan.’

But he added that the plan to reduce suppliers could cause problems, because the companies held opposing views about modularity, in which suppliers are responsibile for an integrated assembly like the whole dashboard.

Renault is enthusiastic about this way of working, whereas Nissan believes it gives too much control to suppliers.