Colin Dodge, the man responsible to Nissan Motor chief Carlos Ghosn for seeing the Japanese carmaker through the current economic crisis, has revealed that a number of projects have been cancelled to bring the carmaker's finances back into the black.

One of them was a planned convertible version of the Murano, a well kept secret project.

Dodge, who is also responsible for Nissan's operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, was called in by Ghosn to stem the companies burgeoning losses.

"We were losing US$10m a day at one point and the banks were not interested in lending us money. We had to do something quickly to make sure we had the cash to pay the wages and develop projects such as our electric vehicle programme.

"As well as the Murano convertible we suspended plans for a new assembly operation in Morocco [with alliance partner Renault] while we also pulled back from some niche model ideas and planned minor changes. We also instigated a 75% cut in staff travel and cut back on temporary staff. In the first quarter of this fiscal year we did not lose money. We have stopped the bleeding and we will come out leaner and fitter."

He admitted that certain projects that had been stopped "will not come back".

Cutting costs were also the reasoning behind moving small car assembly away from high cost areas. Micra production at the company's UK plant, for example, is moving to India while the British plant will continue to build models such as the Qashqai and the upcoming B-platform model based on the Qazana concept.

"You will see our manufacturing footprint changing. We are not going to make small cars in western Europe any more because, unless you have volumes like Volkswagen, you cannot make any money from them. We will build small cars in future in places like Thailand, China, India and possibly South America where the costs are lower.

"On the other hand, models like the Qashqai have been incredibly successful for us. It has performed twice as well as we originally planned both in terms of sales and profitability."

Dodge also believes the market for SUVs in Europe has gone and is unlikely to come back.

"This market was disappearing even before the economic crisis and is disappearing very rapidly.

"Actually, the light commercial vehicle market collapsed much faster but we expect that to pick up again once the economic situation eases."

The company will persevere with Infiniti in Europe, however.

Dodge added: "It is tough up against BMW, Audi and Mercedes and that's why diesel and hybrid models will be important for Infiniti, as will the electric vehicle.

"We still think Infiniti will be a success in Europe."

Chris Wright

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