`Alliance with Renault will continue to deliver good news'

YOKOHAMA: Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said on Tuesday that the automaker's vehicle sales in Japan might fall short of its initial forecast and acknowledged to shareholders that the first half of the fiscal year might be tough. But Mr. Ghosn, who also heads Nissan Motor Co.'s French partner Renault SA, promised that a series of new models in the fall would bring better results in the latter part of the year.

"We know we have a tough moment, but we're going through it,'' he told reporters.

"In April, Nissan had predicted domestic sales to reach 846,000 vehicles for the fiscal year ending March 2007. But now the company is forecasting to sell between 800,000 and 846,000 vehicles, although there won't be any change in Nissan's global sales forecast for 3.7 million vehicles in the period, he said.

Mr. Ghosn did not specify how the company might make up a possible domestic shortfall to reach its global target.

Earlier, addressing a hall packed with more than 1,700 shareholders, Mr. Ghosn said the alliance between Nissan, Japan's No. 2 automaker, and Renault would continue to deliver good news for investors.

Mr. Ghosn said the alliance had been among one of the most successful in the industry, but that the companies were testing unknown territory and had yet to reach their full potential. Renault owns a 44.4 per cent stake in Nissan, which in turn owns a 15 per cent stake in Renault.

Unique opportunity

"This is a unique and long-lasting opportunity,'' he said in Yokohama, a port city south of Tokyo where Nissan is moving headquarters in 2009.

Nissan, now based in Tokyo, was on the verge of bankruptcy when Mr. Ghosn was sent in by Renault to lead the Japanese company in 1999. The Brazilian-born Mr. Ghosn engineered a cost-cutting and morale-boosting campaign that revived the automaker, making him a celebrity here.

Nissan shareholder meetings are normally packed partly because people want to check out Mr. Ghosn. Shareholders got a chance to mingle with him at a buffet lunch after the shareholder meeting, although he was mostly hounded by a pack of photographers for anyone else to get too close.

But Mr. Ghosn also fielded some tough questions from the floor, including questions about why Nissan share prices had dipped and when Nissan was preparing to offer the Infiniti luxury brand in Japan.

Infiniti has been successful in the U.S. and other parts of the world, but has not been introduced in the notoriously finicky and demanding Japanese market. AP