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Turnaround: How Carlos Ghosn Rescued Nissan Hardcover – January 7, 2003

3.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The facts of Magee's account are quite startling. Nissan, once a darling of the automotive world, with its cheap Datsun pickups and stylish, spunky Z roadsters, had, by the 1990s, fallen on hard times. Saddled with billions in debt, the company merged with Renault in 1999, and a Renault v-p, Carlos Ghosn, was named Nissan's new CEO. Routing not only every naysayer in the auto industry, Ghosn, who was born to Lebanese parents in Brazil, also had to overcome an entrenched Japanese business culture that at that time had seemed to stress perks, seniority and relationships over the bottom line. Given complete control over the company, Ghosn slashed costs and laid off employees, as was expected, but also instituted a sweeping reorganization of the entire company, announced an ambitious slate of new vehicles and promised that if Nissan was not profitable in 2000, he and his entire managerial staff would quit. Journalist Magee lays out Ghosn's management style, his mantra of complete transparency and responsibility, and all the tiny victories that went into returning Nissan to the top ranks of automakers. His approach can be hagiographic, but this profile of an astoundingly effective CEO (one of the few who might have actually earned his large salary) is sure to inspire.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This the story of the dramatic comeback of Nissan under the leadership of CEO Carlos Ghosn. The ultimate international businessman, Ghosn is of Lebanese descent, born in Brazil and raised as a French citizen. He saved Renault first and then Nissan from bankruptcy by using drastic cost-cutting measures and by fully engaging the workforce from the ground up to stimulate creative innovation. In order to do so, he had to implement Western-style changes, such as plant closings and layoffs, and risk alienating a Japanese culture used to life-long job security. In 1999, Ghosn unveiled his Nissan Revival Plan and made headlines by pledging to quit if the ailing company was not profitable within one year. He proved all the doubters wrong when he announced that fiscal year 2000 was not only profitable but had posted the best financial performance in the company's history. Magee's report is a fine lesson in the adage that "there are no problems at a car company good products can't solve." David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1 edition (January 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006051485X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060514853
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As we continue to read about the Fiat debacle in Italy, and the grim plateau that car sales figures are cutting in the US, it is difficult to escape the sheer morbid curiosity about how Ghosn has, in less than four years, managed to take a company that many thought was heading for utter disaster and turn in it into one of the hottest automotive manufacturers on the planet (Nissan has once again raked in a record quarter as I write).
David Magee does an engaging job of capturing Ghosn's audacious yet down-to-earth attitude in a culture as obstinate as Japan's. Some very interesting anecdotal evidence here about Ghosn's uncanny ability to motivate subordinates several layers down in Nissan. Automotive companies today are multicultural institutions that operate across traditional geopolitical/cultural boundaries. While several top-brass CEOs (e.g., Nasser who was with Ford until 2001) have recognized this and yet failed to implement it, Ghosn has won his laurels the old-fashioned way -- by enabling a free exchange of ideas in an ailing monster of a Japanese organization. This alone speaks volumes about the man's personality, and I am happy to say I was not disappointed with Magee's treatment of this aspect.
Nonetheless, a business book is a business book. There is only so much detail that can be smooshed in to it, and inevitably completeness needs to be sacrificed for readability by a wide audience. I personally felt that the book sort of glosses over several key points that could have made this a 6 out of 5 stars material --
(1) A more granular look at WHAT Ghosn *really* did in terms of enabling the culture of flexibility without really changing the otherwise autonomous structure that underpins Nissan, i.e.
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Format: Hardcover
Although Magee does indeed provide a brilliant analysis of how Carlos Ghosn "rescued" Nissan, the value of this book extends far beyond that admirable achievement. What we have here is a probing and informative analysis of a leadership and management style which provides important lessons to decision-makers in all organizations (regardless of size or nature) which currently struggle to compete successfully in their respective marketplaces. In a sense, the same skills required by a successful turnaround are also valuable in organizations which are currently prospering: "Be transparent and explain yourself in clear, lucid terms. Do as you say you are going to do. Listen first; then think." Prior to being reassigned by Renault to the Nissan organization, Ghosn had led the revivals of Michelin South America, Michelin North America, and Renault. According to Magee, he "may be the only person to have four verifiable corporate turnaround efforts on four different continents." Serious problems had developed at Nissan in the early 1990s. How serious? It was "strapped by $22-billion in debt, inflated supplier costs, and new product development that was at a standstill." This book explains how, under Ghosn's leadership, Nissan not only solved those and other problems; it regained a position of profitable and prominent leadership in one of the most competitive of industries.
As indicated previously, Ghosn is a firm believer in transparency throughout all areas and at all levels of an organization. For that reason, prior to the merger of Renault and Nissan, he created cross-company teams (CCTs) which "were charged with finding possible synergies between the companies and exploring specifically how these might work if an alliance was formed.
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Format: Hardcover
The Japanese Automobile Industry was, just till a decade ago, nearly worshipped. A handful of companies led by Toyota introduced concepts of Lean Manufacturing and effortlessly conquered the highways of the land of the Automobile. Japanese cars were soon seen in all continents, eating away market share from established incumbents. Low cost, high quality and fuel economy were the key differentiating factors. Several research studies were undertaken to explore and demystify the secrets behind the Japanese success. Cultural factors and traditions of Japan like strong relationships with vendors and customers, Industry alliances and a loyal work force wedded to their organization on the concept of life long employment were some of the elements that the West found hard to replicate.
Take "Keirestu' for example. This refers to the alliance between the buyers and the vendors with long relationships and cross holdings that reinforce their mutual commitment to business. This system worked well till Japan Inc fumbled. In the case of Nissan, the vendors were fleecing the already bleeding parent by charging it much higher for their parts. For Nissan, it was unthinkable to source these parts from outside Japan, since it would amount to a gross violation of the principles of "Keirestu". The master had become the prisoner.
Japan once boasted of the tradition of life long employment. This had gradually led to mediocrity at all levels since career advancement and compensation were linked to seniority and not performance. It was sacrilege to close down unprofitable plants and Nissan was saddled with plants running at less than 50 % capacity, hemorrhaging cash. Nissan had no money left for new product development and was forced to retain outdated models. Its customers started looking elsewhere.
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