Nissan's Ghosn Warns Of Tough Spell But Predicts Rebound

Nissan Motor Co chief executive Carlos Ghosn warned shareholders to brace for a tough spell in the months ahead but predicted a pick up in sales in late 2006. He said on June 27 that Nissan, Japan's second-largest automaker which is 44.3% owned by France's Renault, may miss its domestic sales target for the year to March 2007 as it struggles to adapt to a consumer shift towards smaller cars.

"(The fiscal year) 2006 will be a year of two distinct halves. The first half will be tough and challenging," said Ghosn, who is credited with saving Nissan from bankruptcy and steering it to record profits. He sought to reassure nervous small investors, who gathered for an annual shareholder meeting, that Nissan would see an improvement in its fortunes later this year.

"Do not be too disturbed when you see that our sales and operating profit are down every month during the first half of this fiscal year (to March 2007)," he said. "Please be confident. We are confident," he told shareholders.

Global sales volumes would grow by more than 10% in the second half and operating profit was expected to accelerate as Nissan launches nine all-new models worldwide this year, Ghosn said.

Nissan's biggest market is the U.S. where it is enjoying brisk sales as local giants General Motors and Ford post losses. In Japan, however, Nissan's sales fell 0.7% in the year to March 2006 although the group still made a sixth straight year of record profits.

Ghosn reiterated his skepticism about new fuel-efficient hybrid cars being championed by Toyota Motor Corp, noting that in Japan the gas-electric vehicles represented less than 1% of the total market.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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