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2008-05-28 13:52
Carlos Ghosn

Renault and Nissan's chief executive Carlos Ghosn.

Carlos Ghosn, who serves as chief executive of both Renault and its partner Nissan, intends to keep both executive positions at the allied carmakers, he said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

"I don't have the intention to do this," Ghosn said in an interview with business network CNBC. "It doesn't only depend on me. It depends on the shareholders. It's up to them to decide whether they want the same CEO for the two companies or they want two CEOs."

Remarks earlier this month by Ghosn had been interpreted as a signal Renault-Nissan could return to an earlier management structure with separate chief executives.

The Renault-Nissan alliance, which was formed in 1999, had separate CEOs for the two carmakers until 2005 when Ghosn, who was then head of Nissan, took over the CEO post at Renault as well.

Ghosn also said he expected more consolidation in the global auto industry against the backdrop of slumping demand in the United States, the largest single market for new vehicle sales.

"I think everything indicates that we are moving toward more consolidation. There is no doubt about it. How is it going to happen? Who is going to move? That is very difficult to predict," Ghosn said. "But, fundamentally, the elements that we are seeing point toward more consolidation."

Chrysler acquisition

Ghosn declined to say whether Renault-Nissan was interested in acquiring Chrysler. Nissan has struck a product tie-up with Chrysler under which the Japanese automaker will produce a small car for Chrysler and the struggling US automaker will make the next-generation full-size truck for Nissan.

"There is a lot of speculation, but you have to be prudent," Ghosn said in the taped interview with CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo.

Nissan has forecast a fall of roughly 30 percent in earnings this year, dragged down by a weak dollar, high commodity prices and soft US demand.

Toyota and Honda, Japan's two biggest automakers, also forecast declines in operating profits of about 30% this business year.

"Everybody is talking about a 30% drop in profit because, fundamentally, the outside events are hitting Japanese car makers at the same level," Ghosn said. "Everybody is in the same ball game. Now, I hope these forecasts are going to end up being very conservative, but we're going to have to wait and see."

Asked if he expected the industry's slowdown to continue into 2009, Ghosn said he did.

"Unfortunately, I think the slowdown continues," he said.

Renault owns a controlling, 44% stake in Nissan. The Japanese carmaker in turn has a 15% stake in Renault.

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