Nissan takes 34 pct stake in scandal-hit Mitsubishi Motors
Nissan Motor Co. is taking a 34 percent stake in scandal-ridden Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in what Nissan Chief Carlos Ghosn said is "a win-win" deal intended to repeat the success of his Nissan-Renault alliance.
Ghosn appeared with Mitsubishi Motors Chairman Osamu Masuko in a hastily called joint conference Thursday in Yokohama, where Nissan is headquartered. Ghosn said Nissan will invest 237 billion yen ($2.2 billion) to become the top investor in Mitsubishi Motors.
Mitsubishi group companies - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, trading company Mitsubishi Corp. and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ - will continue to hold stakes in the automaker, but they have agreed to support the alliance with Nissan, both sides said.
Mitsubishi Motors has been recently rocked by a scandal over cheating on mileage tests to inflate mileage for minicar models. And reporters peppered Ghosn with questions on whether he was worried that the scandal may grow.
"This is a breakthrough transaction and a win-win for both Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. It creates a dynamic new force in the automotive industry that will cooperate intensively and generate sizeable synergies," said Ghosn, the Brazilian-born Frenchman who engineered Nissan's alliance with Renault, which began in 1999.
Adding Mitsubishi will be a plus in sharing platforms, purchasing and technology, and Nissan will benefit from its strengths in southeast Asia, Ghosn said. He said he has a close relationship with Masuko and they have a good relationship built on trust.
The automakers will maintain separate identities, brands and dealerships, Ghosn and Masuko said.
Under the deal, Nissan will purchase 506.6 million newly issued Mitsubishi Motors shares for 468.52 yen a share. The deal is still subject to a formal signing of an agreement, regulators' and shareholders' approvals, but expected to close by the end of the year.
Masuko apologized for the scandal but welcomed the alliance with Nissan.
"This agreement will create long-term value needed for our two companies to progress toward the future," he said.
Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Motors, which makes the makes the Outlander sport-utility vehicle and the i-MiEV electric car, acknowledged last month that it had systematically falsified mileage data on its eK wagon and eK Space light passenger cars, which were produced for Nissan as the Nissan Dayz and Dayz Roox.
It is common for a manufacturer to sell a product made by another company under its own brand.
The latest scandal surfaced after Nissan did its own mileage tests and raised questions. Nissan does not have minicars in its lineup, and placing Mitsubishi under its group umbrella would be one solution.
But Nissan, which makes the March subcompact, Infinti luxury models and Leaf electric car, would face a major challenge in repairing Mitsubishi's tarnished reputation and winning back consumer trust.
In the early 2000s, Mitsubishi disclosed a shocking scandal involving cover-ups of defects such as failing brakes, faulty clutches and fuel tanks prone to falling off, dating back to the 1970s. That resulted in more than a million vehicles being recalled retroactively.
In the unfolding mileage scandal, Mitsubishi has said the rigging dates back 25 years, and may involve all its models, including discontinued ones.
Ghosn has saved Nissan from near-bankruptcy, imposing cost cuts that have been more efficient, if not brutal, than old-style Japanese management, which relies on cautious, harmonious decision-making by committee and vaguely defined responsibilities.
Mitsubishi had an unsuccessful partnership involving foreign management, with DaimlerChrysler AG in 2000, that failed to reverse Mitsubishi's debts and lagging sales. The collaboration gradually unraveled, ending after about five years.
Nissan reported a 40 percent plunge in January-March profit of 71 billion yen ($651 million), as sales dipped and currency perks faded. Quarterly sales edged down 1.2 percent to 3.25 trillion yen ($29.8 billion). For the fiscal year, Nissan's profit rose 15 percent to 523.8 billion yen ($4.8 billion), and Nissan forecast a 525 billion yen ($4.8 billion) profit for the fiscal year through March 2017.
A weak yen had worked as a plus for exporters like Nissan, but the currency is strengthening in recent months.
Nissan shares dropped 1.4 percent in Tokyo trading as Japanese media reported that a deal with Mitsubishi was imminent. Mitsubishi Motors, on the other hand, surged 16 percent.
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