decades back, much before I joined the newspapers as a journalist, I remember
reading the book titled ‘Iacocca: An Autobiography’. The bestselling book was
co-authored by William Novak and was originally published in 1984.
when I switched from being a business journalist to an auto journalist
somewhere in the mid-nineties, did I realise the true essence of Lee Iacocca’s
role as President of Ford Motor Company and later as CEO of Chrysler. And
decades later when I was pushing the Ford Mustang at the Buddh International
Circuit, I could not help remember Iacocca once again. Whatever I had read
about him came rushing like a flood into my mind.
President, Iacocca was instrumental in the success of Ford and a few of its
products, one of the being the Ford Mustang. He quit Ford and joined a loss
making Chrysler as CEO. Iacocca apparently saved Chrysler from bankruptcy. Not
only did he make the company profitable but also was instrumental in launching
some great products for the company like the minivans.
was reminded of Iacocca once again when I saw a documentary on Netflix just the
other day on Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of Renault and Chairman of
Nissan. Ghosn too was a great CEO. By the
time I finished seeing the documentary film ‘Fugitive: The Curious Case of
Carlos Ghosn’ I was completely in awe of him, despite the fact that he had
spent quite a bit of time in a Japanese jail. He had escaped from Japan in a
huge box meant for a musical instrument, aboard a private jet. He is now
somewhere in his home in Lebanon. He
claims he was wronged, and I feel something terribly fishy about the fact that
he was jailed for a crime which some of the top officials at Nissan Motor
Company were apparently privy to.
saw Ghosn when he came to India to launch the Datsun brand in south India. He
looked dynamic, powerful, purposeful and focussed. But early 2022, unfortunately,
Nissan pulled the plugs off Datsun and its production has since been stopped in
India and other emerging countries. What is that made Ghosn so superhuman in
the world of automobiles?
answer is simple. He was literally a superman when it came to turning around
both Renault of France and Nissan of Japan. I have never come across any
individual after Iacocca who has managed such a stupendous feat. I have interacted
with and read about many top honchos of automobile companies in India, both
four wheelers as well as two wheelers.
At best, the founders of some of the Indian
automobile companies can be termed pioneers. Whether it was Mahindra & Mahindra,
Tata Motors, Hero Honda (now Hero MotoCorp), Eicher (that includes Eicher Trucks
and Buses, VECV, Royal Enfiled), Force Motors, TVS Motor Company, Bajaj Auto or
even some of the tractor manufacturers in the country, or even Hindustan Motors
(now shut down) or the makers of Premier Padmini cars. Yes, the founders of
these companies need to be applauded for the pioneering role in nurturing their
when it comes to a CEO of the stature of Carolos Ghosh, no Indian CEO of an
automobile company is a patch on him. I don’t want to show any disrespect to
the present and past crop of CEOs of Indian automobile companies, but I can
clearly state, after watching the Netflix documentary that Ghosn was and
continues to be a class apart. My only regret is that I never got an
opportunity to interview him.
film has interviewed the likes of Louis Schweitser, the former CEO of Renault who
was instrumental in recruiting Ghosn as his deputy and successor way back in
1996 or so. He calls Ghosn “bright and brilliant”. Then there are interviews
with a host of other people like Nathalie Gigandet, Former Director of
Innovation, Renault-Nissan, Clement Lacombe, an investigative journalist in
France, Nayla Beydoun, Carlos Ghosn’s sister, Keiki Matsumoto, Ghosn’s
housekeeper in Japan, Ravinder Passi, former Global General Counsel at Nissan
Motor Company, Patrick Pelata, former COO of Renault, Andy Palmer, former COO,
Nissan, Hiroto Saikawa, CEO of Nissan and Takashi Takano, former Defence lawyer
of Carlos Ghosn in Japan, and a few others.
the movie unfolds, you get to see and hear about Ghosn’s brilliance, about his fat
salaries and perks, about his indulgence, about his so called financial
irregularities and about Nissan’s strange ways of dealing with Ghosn’s ‘financial
misconduct’ . I could never fathom why Ravinder Passi was asked to leave Japan soon
after he had helped in investigating into the alleged misconduct of Ghosn. In hindsight,
he should have been rewarded by Nissan and not thrown out.
is quoted as saying, “Some of our Japanese friends thought the only way to get
rid of influence of Renault on Nissan is to get rid of me”. Thus, as he stepped
out his private jet at the Tokyo Airport on November 19, 2018, he was arrested
and put in jail. His top executive Greg Kelly too was put in jail. Ghosn, who
was known to have miraculously turned around two loss making automobile
companies in two different continents was put in a tiny Japanese cell. Had he
not escaped from Japan, Ghosn may have probably spent the rest of his life in
escape from Japan, hiding in a huge box meant for a large musical instrument
and his reaching Lebanon in a private aircraft, has all the ingredients of a
thriller movie. This documentary is a lot better than a thriller. It’s about an
icon by the name of Carlos Ghosn. After watching the movie on Netflix, my
admiration for Ghosn has grown to dizzy heights. Good luck, Sir, stay safe!
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