We've been reading much about the arrest and subsequent escape of the former head of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, Carlos Ghosn, for the last few days.The theories floating around the interwebs are wild, particularly with how Ghosn was able to escape Japan and fly halfway around the world to his home country of Lebanon.
But now the embattled former CEO is finally speaking, and at a press conference, he talked about his experiences in the last 14 months following his arrest and what led him to find a way to escape.
According to Ghosn, he was facing a Japanese justice system wherein the deck is stacked and rigged against him. Ghosn says his bail conditions have been authoritarian-like, wherein he couldn't use a phone, the internet, or even speak to his wife. He says that Japanese authorities, after more than a year, actually hadn't set a date for his trial along with former executive Greg Kelly.
“I don’t think that people look at people who run from North Korea, or from Vietnam, or from Russia under the Communist regime as people who are running from justice,” said Carlos Ghosn, “I was not running from justice, I was looking for justice."
What has always baffled us in the motoring press is why Nissan had turned on its former leader; Ghosn is credited with leading the turnaround of the brand in Japan. Ghosn was actually revered as being the savior of Nissan.
“I revived a company that nobody else before me was able to do,” said Ghosn about Nissan. “For 10 years, they were in the dirt.”
His reverence in Japan lasted up until his arrest, but just as his achievements at the helm were very public, the manner in which he was taken down from within was likewise very public. But now we may have a more plausible answer as to why he was taken down: Nissan didn't want to lose its independence.
Prior to his arrest, Ghosn said that he was already leading the charge to integrate the two companies (Renault and Nissan) fully, including a proposal that could have established a holding company to do it. But Ghosn says the Japanese executives at Nissan were fearful that it would fall under the control of the French automaker. In order to prevent that, Ghosn alleges that Nissan executives colluded with Japanese authorities to get rid of Ghosn.
But Ghosn's arrest may have prevented an even bigger and industry changing event from happening: a partnership (possibly even a merger) between the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
We know that FCA and Renault were publicly talking about a merger in mid-2019, but at that time Ghosn was already detained by Japanese authorities. The former executive says that even before he was arrested in November 2018, he was already deep into talks with FCA about the merger.
Ghosn says that if he wasn't arrested, he would have had the final meeting with FCA in January 2019. If they had reached a favorable conclusion, the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance could have added Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Lancia, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and more to their list.
Ghosn says the Alliance missed that huge opportunity as FCA withdrew, and agreed to merge instead with PSA, or the Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall, et al.
"I think it's a big waste for Renault. I think it's a great opportunity for PSA.” said Ghosn.