Nissan: CEO Carlos Ghosn’s speech to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan

Carlos Ghosn outlines launch timetable for Autonomous Drive technologies



Tokyo, Japan
Thursday, July 17, 2014


Thank you, Martin [Koelling], for that introduction.  And thank you all for welcoming me back to the Club. It is a pleasure to be here.

Almost 10 years ago, I was invited to speak at the Club’s 60th anniversary celebration – where I praised your coverage of the auto industry.  Although much has changed since then, the extent of your coverage has not.  Your important work continues to reflect the auto industry’s status as a key part of the Japanese and global economies.

On your 60th anniversary, I also made this pledge: to turn the Renault-Nissan Alliance into a global leader in automotive technology and innovation.

Today, as requested, I’ve returned to provide an update on the progress that Nissan has made. And I know that you specifically want to hear about the cutting-edge advances that Nissan is developing and looks forward to introducing.

Over the last decade, technology has changed the way we do business: both for you in the media and for us in the car industry. At Nissan, we’ve made great progress in delivering innovations that make driving easier, safer, and more environmentally friendly.

On each of these goals, Nissan is bringing breakthrough technologies to the market. Many of them will be embedded in Autonomous Drive vehicles, which Nissan aims to bring to market by 2020.

This morning I will outline the steps we are taking to further develop Autonomous Drive technologies, which have the potential to revolutionize large parts of our industry; and I also will explain the global trends that make it essential for Nissan to continue to be an innovation pioneer.

Nissan is a company with a history of breakthroughs, particularly in vehicle emissions, connectivity and safety. Take the all-electric Nissan LEAF. Since we introduced the Nissan LEAF in 2010, it has become the world’s best-selling zero-emissions car by a wide margin.

We have also pioneered connected cars — equipped with telematics and electronic systems that combine security, information, entertainment and offer cutting-edge mobile applications. And we are now developing Autonomous Drive systems, which have the potential to enhance safety, increase fuel economy and improve traffic management.

These innovations were barely on the drawing-board a decade ago. Today, they are either a reality or in advanced development. These technologies promise to deliver a significant competitive advantage for Nissan, enabling us to address the most prominent “mega-trends” that are reshaping our industry.

Global Trends

We see four major socio-economic trends affecting the world’s car industry.

The first is the rise of global mega-cities, which is increasing the need for innovations to ease congestion, reduce emissions and improve traffic management.

Second, demand is growing for in-car communications that meet or exceed the high expectations of the “digital generation.”  Our vehicles must be as connected as the smartphones and tablets that this generation depends upon day in and day out.

Third, there is the need to bridge the generation gap by providing vehicles that appeal to the world’s growing population of seniors. These consumers want technologies and automated systems that enable them to drive safely, for longer.

Finally, the fourth mega-trend is the pressing need to embrace gender diversity. This means recognizing the vital role that women play as consumer-purchasers, decision-makers and managers throughout the car industry.

In each of these areas, Nissan is determined to innovate.  In pursuit of our goals, Nissan will seize the growth opportunities created by the major socio-economic trends that I mentioned. Let me explain why.

Trend #1: the rise of global megacities

Starting with megacities: Today, there are more than 30 cities around the world with populations of more than 10 million people.

They include Tokyo and Osaka here in Japan, as well as Beijing, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, and Mumbai. These are all in key markets, where our Nissan, Infiniti, and Datsun brands have the potential to build a larger presence.

Oxford economists predict that the number of megacities will reach almost 50 – with a third of them in China – by 2030.
Given the rise of mega-cities in China, it should be no surprise that the Government in Beijing is seeking to reduce pollution through incentives for electric vehicles. Just last week, China announced its aim to increase the proportion of government-fleet EVs to 30% of the total and pledged to end sales tax on all electric cars.

This move reflects the environmental challenge in countries such as China. Rapid urbanization and escalating traffic congestion threaten to increase already high CO2 emissions. At a time when more than 20% of all CO2 emissions come from the transport sector, Nissan understands our responsibility to be part of the solution.

Our advances in zero-emission vehicles and autonomous-drive systems could help alleviate pollution and congestion and lower CO2 levels.

In addition to the Nissan LEAF, Nissan recently launched the all-electric e-NV200 van in Europe. And we’re currently taking orders here in Japan for delivery later this fall.  This model has the potential to transform the cost-economics for fleet operators.

While zero-emission vehicles are one solution to mega-city pollution, another will be greater vehicle autonomy. Autonomous technology already exists in our industry. Motorists don’t think twice about using automatic transmissions or cruise control. The next step – and it’s a big step – is to secure both the regulatory framework and consumer adoption to make autonomous driving a reality.

Nissan is among industry leaders seeking workable regulatory standards.
We have shown, in road tests, how new technologies such as automatic lane-changing and automated parking can enhance the driving experience, and make it safer.

I want to clarify that there is a big difference between autonomous drive technology championed by Nissan, and self-driving cars. Autonomous Drive is about relieving motorists of everyday tasks, particularly in congested or long-distance situations. The driver remains in control, at the wheel, of a car that is capable of doing more things automatically.

Self-driving cars, by comparison, don’t require any human intervention – and remain a long-way from commercial reality. They are suitable only for tightly-controlled road-environments, at slow speeds, and face a regulatory minefield.

That is why Nissan is focused on autonomous drive technologies that we know will work, and can be introduced over the next 4 to 5 years. 

Today, I can confirm details of Nissan’s timeline to 2020 and the introduction toward our Autonomous Drive system.

By the end of 2016, Nissan will make available the next two technologies under its autonomous-drive strategy. We are bringing to market a traffic-jam pilot, in which cars will have the capability to drive autonomously – and safely – on congested highways. In the same timeframe, we will make fully-automated parking systems available across a wide range of vehicles.

This will be followed in 2018 by the introduction of multiple-lane controls, allowing cars to autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes. And before the end of the decade, we will introduce intersection-autonomy, enabling vehicles to negotiate city cross-roads without driver intervention.
This technological-momentum – in which cars will, step-by-step, offer more capability to assume journey-management from drivers – is a sign of things to come.

But it’s also a sign of where Nissan has come from.

This work has been years in the making.  Back in 2001, we created “Lane-Keep Support”, a world-first. This was followed by the “Safety Shield”– a system of cameras, sensors and actuators that monitors risk all around the car and can help to avert an accident.

Today cars like the new Qashqai and new X-Trail have advanced park-assist systems. By 2017, we expect parking to be fully automated, and by 2019 increasingly remote – so that cars can be parked in a controlled setting without a driver at the wheel.

All this shows that Nissan is pioneering a more intuitive partnership between car and driver, relieving the motorists of tasks that can be safely automated.

Trend #2: growing demand for connectivity

The launch schedule for autonomous technologies is linked to another mega-trend: the rise of the digital generation, often referred to as the “Millennials.”

These consumers are constantly connected – to their friends, on-line networks, and the web – via a broad range of social media apps. They want to be able to communicate, shop, search, or engage anywhere and at any time – including while they are traveling.

For too long, cars have been insufficiently connected for this generation. But Nissan is addressing this aggressively.  

We are deploying our “NissanConnect” system in more and more vehicles.  It offers connected services such as Bluetooth hands-free telephony; hands-free text messaging assistance; voice recognition; and a growing list of apps to play music, access social media and avoid traffic jams. 

I can today reaffirm that by next year, we expect more than 1.5 million Nissan vehicles to be connected, with cloud-based systems delivering new apps as they are introduced.

But it is not only those growing up in this century who expect greater vehicle connectivity and automation. These services are also relevant to the third mega-trend that we are harnessing: The growth of the world’s elderly population. 

Trend #3: elderly population growth

Every day, more than 8,000 members of the baby-boom generation turn 65. The U.N. predicts the world’s population of people over 65 will exceed 2 billion by 2050.

These seniors want to drive their cars well into retirement. Like the Millennial generation, the elderly value vehicle automation, particularly features such as traffic management and parking assist. That is why Nissan has already introduced advanced sensing technologies including blind-spot prevention, intelligent cruise control and predictive collision warnings.

Many of the 90 new technologies that Nissan is introducing during the Power 88 plan will appeal to multiple generations of motorists, from first-time drivers to those seniors who learned to drive years ago. Last year, we introduce 22 new technologies alone, including direct adaptive steering and forward emergency braking systems.

Such systems will include lane-departure prevention and improved safety sensors that will enable seniors to avoid accidents. The potential to save lives and costs is enormous.  Consider there are 6 million crashes in the United States alone every year – at a cost of $160 billion to consumers and insurance companies.

To make our vehicles more appealing and, in turn, to build our brand and sales power, we must appeal to every demographic – especially the group driving the majority of world-wide consumer purchases: women.

Trend #4: women’s increasing purchasing power/influence

Serving the influential female customer base and leveraging the under-tapped talent of female employees is a key focus area for Nissan.

According to the World Bank, women control 65% of global spending – some $20 trillion. This includes making the final decision on more than 60% of new car purchases. 

Nissan has long recognized the importance of female consumers – and female employees. We are committed to gender diversity in every part of our business. In Japan, women account for 7% of Nissan’s manager-level positions – more than double the number at other large Japanese manufacturers.  
We aim to lift that figure to 10% by 2017. This would be a notable achievement for a Japan-headquartered corporation. And we are making solid progress toward this important goal. More female management ensures that women form part of our business planning in every area of operations.

Here in Japan, mini-cars such as the Dayz and Dayz Roox were designed with female customers in mind – and female employees helped to lead our successful marketing efforts. Across segments, we are increasingly selling and marketing vehicles aimed at women, including a pilot-project in Japan to make dealerships more female-friendly.


By addressing the key megatrends I just outlined, we at Nissan are striving to position ourselves as the industry’s most appealing brand, with the best models, for changing socio-economic groups. This is how we are working to lead the world’s auto industry toward a new era of safer, more sustainable mobility.

Thank you for your attention on these important issues. Now I will be happy to take your questions.



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