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Ghosn: ‘Time’s not right for a European hybrid’

Nissan president and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn has ruled out bringing hybrid cars to Europe any time soon, despite having the technology in place.

He believes that the value of hybrid cars is currently lower than the cost, and points to diesel as the immediate fuel of choice.

The company will be launching a hybrid car in California in 2006, using technology licensed from Toyota, but only because of the tough emissions laws in the American state.

“We will only bring through the product in Europe when it makes sense,” Ghosn says. “We have no plans at the moment.”

Nissan wants to be represented in every segment of the market, but will only build cars that make a profit.

Ghosn cast further doubt over the future of the Primera, claiming the company is assessing the performance of the current model – built in Sunderland alongside Micra and Almera. But he gave his backing to the plant, which has been selected to build the Tone mini-MPV and Qashqai 4x4 crossover from next year.

“We have a good successor for Primera, but we have not taken the decision to build it. It needs to be profitable,” says Ghosn.

He adds: “Market share is not the measure of success – profit is. We don’t want to go down the volume route or make cars that do not make a profit. Market share is a consequence of doing your job well, but should not be your priority focus.”

Incentives are also off the agenda. “We don’t like incentives – we will use them to ensure we are not priced out of the market, but they are a last resort. We prefer to put money behind market to promote the brand.”

Ghosn becomes Renault chairman on May 2, shareholder approval withstanding, but while he also retains control of Nissan, he says both companies will be kept separate.

“I made clear I would only take the job as long as I stayed as CEO of Nissan,” he says. “But each company will have its own chief operating officer.”

A new Nissan COO will be announced in March; Renault’s later in the year.

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