As “le cost-cutter”, Carlos Ghosn worked his magic on Nissan Motor. The Japanese carmaker, on the brink of bankruptcy just six years ago, is now the stuff of US and European rivals' dreams.
In the year just ended, Nissan reported $4.8bn of net income and operating margins of 10 per cent. Growth henceforth will be more elusive. Nissan forecasts almost flat profits and slightly lower operating margins this year.
Signs of decelerating topline growth revenues this year will rise just 5 per cent, from 15 per cent last year look ominous given pressure on margins. Higher commodity prices and volatile exchange rates are hurting returns. Nissan may be the world's most profitable volume carmaker, but it is roughly half the size of Toyota in terms of vehicle production. That gives it less bargaining clout with steelmakers. Parts suppliers, whom Mr Ghosn has squeezed, are likely to resist further cuts. So what does Nissan do next?
Last year's numbers offer some clues. The carmaker boosted operating income by Y31bn simply by consolidating some subsidiaries, including the Chinese Dongfeng Motor joint venture. There is scope to repeat this with some of its 200 or so unconsolidated subsidiaries at least those that are sufficiently profitable. Increasing its managerial control could also force reluctant parts makers to co-operate and thus aid procurement, a big consideration for a carmaker that had to shutter factories due to insufficient steel supply.
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