Breakfast with Carlos Ghosn

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I had the opportunity this morning to attend a Churchill Club Business and Technology breakfast with the guest speaker being Carlos Ghosn Chairman & CEO, Renault-Nissan Alliance. Ray Lane Managing Partner Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was the moderator. The topic of discussion was “The Future of Clean Transportation”.

In Ghosn’s forecast and or prediction he believes that we are currently in the middle of a transformation of the automotive industry to Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV) and ideally to Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV). As most of us know who follow the industry…Ghosn just unveiled the Nissan Leaf, an “all electric city car” as he referred to it back in the November at this years LA auto show. The Jones and the Smiths of North America have ordered already 45,000 retail units. This has proven to be a jump-off point for his companies to work with the United States, France, Middle East and Japan’s governments in the support of this pent up demand.

Renault-Nissan Alliance has become a manufacture of its own lithium/magnesium batteries and components in such countries as Japan, Israel and France. The amazing opportunity now is that they have positioned themselves with national and local governments to build new infrastructures around this new technology for the environment all the while getting tax incentives to sell their technologies to other manufactures, for vehicle, home and other reusable applications. It was stated today by Carlos that 26 percent of vehicles on the road would be all electric powered before 2020. Keep in mind when this technology was first introduced it cost 35K to install a charging station at a residence or a specific destination. Now it is more like 3K and Ghosn hopes that it will cost as little as 1K… later this year to charge ones Nissan Leaf at home. Provided the government throws some money at it with federal and state level participation. The norm currently being offered around the world is $7,500 tax deduction for this investment per consumer.

Renault-Nissan Alliance has already committed to manufacture a “city car” A/B segment with a C segment family sedan and lastly a light utility vehicle with commercial applications coming in 2010-2012. Hmmm sounds much like a domestic manufactures plan… Ford Focus, Fusion and Transit electric vehicles coming in 2011. The next steps for the industry in his forecasting and analysis will be Hydrogen technology ramping up to help support the mix of Clean Diesel, Hybrids and Electric vehicles.

This will be based upon three key variables being:

· Technology

· Environment

· Oil price and consumption levels

I truly enjoyed Carlos Ghosn’s view on what is currently needed to be achieved right now; and the direction of what the next steps should be for the automotive industry in its evolution. Now ask yourself, would you have ever in your wildest dreams thought the largest share holder of once the world’s biggest vehicle manufacture would be the United States government or translation, “you and I the tax payers”. Being a person who loves new technology… I truly believe in one form or another I will own a vehicle with one of these mentioned technological advancements… perhaps a Fisker Karma, Tesla S-sedan or even something that I haven’t seen yet in the pipeline. For now I enjoy my gas burning Porsche 996 Turbo too much to part company with.

Like my good friend Groosh always says, “a rear-wheel drive or in this case all-wheel drive with a stick is still where it’s at”.

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