2004 Paris Auto Show, Part IV Page 2

September 24, 2004

2005 Bugatti Veyron

Ghosn: Motorsports No Use If They Lose

It was the kind of question that usually reduces auto executives to stock answers and cliches. But when Carlos Ghosn, the Nissan chief executive who is slated to become head of the Renault-Nissan alliance, was asked about motorsports during a press roundtable the Paris show, Ghosn surprised reporters by matter-of-factly stating that the value of motorsports had been oversold around the auto business. There is absolutely no point in participating in motorsports if you are an “also ran,” Ghosn said.  “Look around.  You see some people you know dumping $300 million, $400 million or $500 million in Formula One. It’s a joke,” said Ghosn in an apparent reference to Ford-Jaguar’s decision to dump its unsuccessful Formula One racing team after this season. “The relationship between racing and boosting sales and boosting specific technology, frankly we don’t find it,” added Ghosn. “We tried the Paris to Dakar race last year and we were not successful,” he added. Ghosn will give the Nissan to Dakar race another shot and Nissan has participated and done well in a series of races in Japan. “We don’t go racing for our executives to go have a great time and play golf,” he added. “If you are going racing, you have to chance of winning and bolster brand value. It cannot become something you do because you’ve always done,” said Ghosn, who said he wasn’t sorry that Nissan’s racing program had become one of the casualties of the company’s cost-cutting drive over the past five years. “I’m not sorry we don’t participate. I’m sorry where we participate and don’t get very much,” he said. In a footnote to Ghosn’s blunt putdown of racing’s value, one of Ghosn’s colleagues noted that the Formula One team at Renault is successful.

Rover Still Dreams About U.S.

By no means has the Rover Group given up its hopes of re-entering the North American market even though now it’s busy with a new venture in China and a new alliance with Tata in India. Rob Oldaker, director of product development at MG Rover Group, told TheCarConnection that putting a car on sales definitely remains one of the company’s objectives. “We’re certainly looking at the United States,” said Oldaker, who said he hoped the company could put a model on sale in the U.S. in the foreseeable future. He noted the Rover Group has substantial name recognition in the U.S. because of the continuing nostalgia for popular MG of the 1950s and 1960s and dealers are willing to handle the company’s products. However, none of the company’s current models meet the U.S. emission and/or safety standards and bringing the vehicles up to North American standards is an expensive proposition, Oldaker said. The MG TF, for example, has a great crash rating by European standards but its rear end doesn’t measure up exactly with the standards set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, he said. The Rover Group, though, has other new models under development, Oldaker added. During the development process, the Group’s engineers are asked to consider what it would take to prepare the vehicle for sale in North America as well as in Great Britain and Europe.

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