The Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announced its plan to build the first diesel-powered vehicle in North America in the next few years. The decision is anchored on the growing competition and the move of automakers towards fuel efficiency.
Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of the Nissan of Japan and the Renault of France, intimated the details about the company’s diesel strategy in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. Ghosn is amenable that the auto industry may have been shortsighted in fighting increased fuel-economy standards.
Like other automotive executives, Ghosn is striving to satisfy the increasing consumer appetite for fuel-efficient cars. Additionally, the fuel efficiency demands in Washington have to be solved immediately before global warming and oil-dependence issues cripple the industry.
In a meeting with editors and reporters in the industry, Ghosn said that the auto industry brought some problems on itself by fighting fuel-economy regulations over the years. “The car industry… because it has been a little bit shortsighted, saying all the time” that a change in fuel-efficiency standards “is not possible, this is too expensive, this is not going to happen, put itself in a situation where everybody is focusing on the car industry,” Ghosn said. “The carbon dioxide emitted by a car looks more damaging than the carbon dioxide emitted by everybody else.”
Ghosn said any push for tougher fuel-economy rules – known as the corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE – should be accompanied by tougher limits on other carbon-dioxide-emitting industries. “If you take up CAFE for the car industry, just make sure that the other industries also have something similar,” Ghosn said. For the new diesel-powered vehicle, the automaker is likely to use the expertise of Renault which is its alliance partner.
In 2005, sixty three percent of the Japanese automaker’s product lines in Western Europe were equipped with diesel engines. With the shift to greener and cleaner engines, other automakers are now planning more diesels in their lineup. DaimlerChrysler, Honda, and Volkswagen are just some of the automakers working with that goal in mind.
As the auto industry continues to produce more-efficient vehicles, Ghosn urged lawmakers and regulators to make rules that simply do not favor one technology over another. “At the end of the day, it’s about carbon dioxide emissions,” Ghosn said. “Let’s talk about performance, let’s not talk about technology. The competition will be on technology.”
Ghosn became famous largely for rescuing Nissan, which was near bankruptcy in 1999. His plan was built largely on catering to Americans’ desire for speed and horsepower during the craze for trucks and sport-utility vehicles in the 1990s.
Ghosn has ridiculed hybrids in the past, saying that their high prices did not make good business sense. Ghosn said that he was not convinced that hybrids were the answer to U.S. fuel-efficiency needs. But now, he is singing a new tune. “There are a lot of technologies on the table and we are working on a lot of them,” he said.
This year, Nissan is introducing its first hybrid which is a version of the Altima sedan. It will not fascinate enthusiasts just because of Nissan tail light, but would catch attention because of its green technology mated to superb performance and appearance. The hybrid technology is licensed from the Toyota Motor Corporation.