Blaming an overly strong yen, high gasoline prices and weak demand in the US market (its most profitable market), Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) predicts its biggest drop in net income in 9 years. Net income is anticipated to fall by 30% to about $3.3 billion in the year ending March 31. Nissan’s operating profit is expected to fall 31%, much more than the approximately 22% consensus. Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) already have predicted lower earnings. All 3 Japenses automakers’ enormous reliance on the US market have battered their sales.
On a more optimisitc note, Nissan upped the stakes in the zero-emission arms race by declaring they will be selling an electric car in Japan and the United States by 2010 and globally by 2012. Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, wasn’t always so optimistic about environmentally friendly cars, calling them a “niche product” in 2005. He has changed his tune. From NYT:
“It wasn’t long ago that Carlos Ghosn was a big naysayer about the role of electric vehicles,” said John O’Dell, senior editor at the auto Web site GreenCarAdvisor.com. “Obviously, something has opened his eyes.”
Other automakers like Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries are testing versions of electric cars, and General Motors and Toyota are working on battery-powered vehicles that have small gasoline engines for recharging. G.M. plans to start producing the Chevrolet Volt in 2010, while Toyota expects to offer a similar so-called “plug in” hybrid around the same time.
But Nissan, which a decade ago was on the brink of bankruptcy, is the first manufacturer to say it will sell mass-market all-electric vehicles worldwide.