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I Witnessed: ‘Ghosn day’

2 months ago

Writer:

David Twohig | Engineer

Date:

29 July 2022

The date was October 18th, 1999. I was a junior manager at Nissan, based in its European R&D centre that is still tucked away in a pretty stretch of farmland near Cranfield in the UK. It’s a date all Nissan employees of the time remember as ‘Ghosn day’.

In the late 1990s, Nissan was up a very remote creek, with no hint of a paddle. In 1998 I had spent some time in Japan, working in our enormous global engineering centre. Company finances were so bad by then that the electricity supply was intermittent and even paper was a rare and precious commodity – in the printers and photocopiers and, even more inconveniently, the company loos. In November of that same year, our credit rating was downgraded to ‘Ba1’: Nissan stock was officially a junk bond. We might as well have hung bunches of share certificates on a nail in those loos.

Various competitors circled around our soon-to-be corpse, looking to pick over the bones at a bargain price. The most frequent and consistent rumours were that we would be bought by DaimlerChrysler (remember that ill-fated marriage?). But it was not to be. To everybody’s great surprise – at least to engineering grunts like me, far removed from the discussions led by our senior executives in Japan – we were finally rescued by a massive $5.4 billion cash injection from Renault, in March of 1999.

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