Ghosn family believes arrest was to prevent Nissan-Renault merger

Amy Chozick, writing for the New York Times:

She [Caroline Ghosn] and her sister Maya Ghosn, 26, do not have direct knowledge of their father’s business discussions, but both said watching Mr. Saikawa address the national news media had cemented their belief that internal company dynamics were at play.

“Wow,” Caroline Ghosn said. “He didn’t even waste a breath. He didn’t even try to cover up the fact that the merger had something to do with this.”

Maya Ghosn, who works in philanthropy, agreed. As Mr. Saikawa was “talking about the alliance, it was clear to me that there was way more associated with it,” she said. “My gut reaction was that this was bigger than the accusations against my dad.”

Nicholas Maxfield, a company spokesman, said: “These claims are baseless. The family would never have had any reason to be privy to discussions related to the future of Nissan and the alliance.”

“The cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn and Kelly,” Mr. Maxfield said. “During the company’s internal investigation into this misconduct, the prosecutor’s office began its own investigation and took action.” (Asked specifically whether a merger had been discussed, Mr. Maxfield said a previously announced six-year plan had called for “additional synergies and further convergence among the member companies.”)

Mr. Ghosn has remained in a small jail cell without the opportunity for bail since his arrest.

It will be a long while before the truth is finally revealed, but what a soap opera this is becoming for Nissan, Renault and the wider automotive industry. I don’t know much about the Japanese legal system, but locking Ghosn up without bail appears to be a heavy handed tactic for someone who hasn’t committed any physical crimes.

Nissan and Mitsubishi to fire chairman Carlos Ghosn

Hans Greimel, writing for Automotive News:

‘Ghosn, 64, allegedly under-reported his income in official stock market filings. He diverted corporate investment funds for personal use. And he misused company expenses, Saikawa said. Ghosn was taken into custody earlier in the day after arriving at a Tokyo airport and charged with similar violations of Japan’s financial laws, local media reported.

It was bombshell development for one of the industry’s most storied executives and a man who created its biggest automotive partnership, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Ghosn oversees them all as chairman of the alliance, while individually chairing all three carmakers and concurrently serving as CEO of French partner Renault.’

This is shocking. Alongside the late Sergio Marchionne, Ghosn is one of the most influential and famous executives in the automotive industry, and widely credited with turning around the fortunes of Nissan and for forming the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. It will be fascinating to see the consequences of these revelations unfold and their impact on the Alliance, given the substantial amount of power Ghosn held over the three companies.

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Above: Brands of the Alliance. From left to right, they are Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Dacia, Renault-Samsung, Lada, Alpine, Infiniti, Venucia and Datsun.

X marks the spot: Toyota Corolla design

Toyota recently unveiled the all-new 12th generation Corolla. Let’s go through its design and see why it’s a clear step up over its predecessor.

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The design of the new Corolla is in line with CEO Akio Toyoda’s vision for Toyota vehicles to be less bland and more characterful. Indeed, Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota’s American Calty design studio, confirmed that the company wants to progress with more emotional designs and move on from a widely held perception that it makes inoffensive whitegoods on wheels.

The face

Above top: The superseded Corolla, known in Europe as the Auris

Compared to its predecessor, the new Corolla presents an aggressive face that is a stark departure from its predecessors. The two key elements here are the hidden bumper and the headlamps. The front bumper has cleverly been painted black and is camouflaged behind mesh, creating the illusion of a large, gaping grille. Together with the slim, downwards angled headlamps, this creates an aggressive ‘X’ design across the front of the car, in line with other recent Toyota models and helping to develop a family design language.

Above left to right: The new Corolla, Aygo, Yaris, C-HR and Camry. These models all use an aggressive front design incorporating an ‘X’ graphic to develop a shared family resemblance.

The sides and rear: more balanced proportions

The 12th generation Corolla continues its predecessor’s cab-forward design, with a minimal dash-to-axle ratio and the base of the A-pillar positioned almost on top of the front axle.

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The key improvement, however, is in the treatment of the side profile. The older model implemented a single crease which acted as a half-hearted attempt to break up an otherwise slab-sided design. In contrast, the latest Corolla implements a curved secondary character line that flows from the front of the rear door handle, across the C-pillar and into the tailgate. This crease has the effect of accentuating the rear haunches, and together with the more steeply raked rear windscreen, helps develop the sense that the new Corolla has a more protruding, substantial rear end. When taken into consideration with the rest of the side profile as a whole, this develops an illusion that visually elongates the car and helps balance the otherwise cab-forward design.

Above left to right: Corolla, 2018 Renault Megane RS, 2014 Renault Megane Coupé

The tail of the new Corolla is in harmony with the front of the car. Angled character lines that extend from the rear bumper reflectors into the tailgate, together with the blade like tail-lamps and curved rear windscreen work together to develop an ‘X’ graphic that mirrors the front of the vehicle.

Of note is the inspiration Toyota has derived from the Renault Megane for the design of the tailgate. In some respects, the new Corolla is an amalgamation of both 2014 Megane Coupé and the 2016 Megane. The steeply raked, curved windscreen has a clear lineage to the Megane Coupé, whilst the slim tail-lamps extend far into the tailgate to serve a secondary function that visually widens the car, in a fashion similar to the 2016 Megane hatch.

Conclusion

The new 12th generation Corolla successfully achieves its objective of presenting a more aggressive, characterful design, in line with the vision outlined by CEO Akio Toyota. The use of an ‘X’ graphic across both the front and rear, together with a more balanced side profile incorporating character lines to emphasise the rear haunches and tail, creates a very cohesive design. With the right combination of trim and colour, the new Corolla is a desirable and compelling option in its segment.