With Carlos Ghosn Sitting In Jail, Nissan Profit Takes A Big Dive

With Carlos Ghosn sitting in jail, Nissan profit takes a big dive

TOKYO — Japanese automaker Nissan, reeling from the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn, reported Tuesday that annual profit nosedived to less than half of what it earned the previous year, and forecast even dimmer results going forward. Nissan Motor Co.'s profit for the fiscal year ended March totaled 319.1 billion yen ($2.9 billion), down from 746.9 billion yen the previous fiscal year. Yokohama-based Nissan said profit for the fiscal year through March 2020 will drop to 170 billion yen ($1.5 billion), as its earnings are slammed by restructuring and product development expenses combined with currency-related losses and rising material costs. "This is a very critical situation," Nissan's chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa, told reporters at its headquarters in Yokohama. He said efforts were underway to reshape Nissan's business, especially in North America, where profits have dropped because of incentives and overproduction. Nissan's sales for the fiscal year that ended in March totaled 11.6 trillion yen ($105 billion), down 3% from the previous fiscal year. Vehicle sales for the fiscal year slipped 4% to 5.5 million vehicles. Saikawa promised that Nissan's business will be turned around over the next two or three years. He blamed an overly aggressive sales growth strategy spearheaded by Ghosn, though Saikawa himself has faced criticism over his leadership since he became CEO. Saikawa apologized to customers and shareholders for the shoddy results, giving a short bow rather than the usual deep bow held for nearly a minute by Japanese executives apologizing for corporate wrongdoing. Ghosn, who led Nissan and its alliance with Renault SA of France for two decades, was arrested in November on financial misconduct charges. He has been accused of under-reporting retirement compensation, having Nissan shoulder investment losses and diverting Nissan money for personal gain. He says he is innocent. He says the compensation was never paid or agreed upon, the losses were never suffered and the payments were for legitimate services. The scandal over Ghosn's arrest and dismissal added to Nissan's problems. It logged 9.2 billion ($83 million) in costs for the fiscal year through March from alleged underreporting of Ghosn's compensation. Some analysts say the brand has been tarnished. It is unclear when Ghosn's trial will start, as preparations in Japan take months. Prosecutors wanted Ghosn kept incarcerated during the preparation, but he was released on bail in March, rearrested and then released again in April. The latest release forbids Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry, from contact with his wife, a restriction that prosecutors have defended as necessary to prevent evidence tampering. Saikawa brushed off speculation that Renault may be pushing for a merger, saying that Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, who recently joined Nissan's board, agrees that fixing Nissan comes first. Renault owns 43% of Nissan. Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, owns 15% of Renault. Saikawa also brushed off a reporter's question about his resignation. He said he planned to hand over the reign to another leader "when the timing is right." For now, he said, he needs to focus on a turnaround.

Android Auto Gets A Big Update, And It's Going To Be Way Better

Android Auto gets a big update, and it's going to be way better

Android Auto users are in for a treat as Google just unveiled a complete overhaul of the interface. We can safely say it looks a whole lot better than the current system, and we're excited to try it out.

To begin, there's a new launcher. Instead of the five buttons along the bottom, now there's an array of apps to choose from in a vertically scrolling interface. This looks a whole lot more like the app drawer on your actual phone, and should make choosing your desired navigation or audio app much more intuitive. The launcher looks more like Apple CarPlay, but scrolls vertically instead of sliding from page to page horizontally.

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Shows Its Big, New Face In America

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport shows its big, new face in America

The 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport initially showed us its new sheetmetal at the Geneva Motor Show, but we got a chance to check out the vehicle in the flesh at the company's research and development center in Ann Arbor, Mich., today. Nearly everything we learned about the Outlander Sport (known as the ASX in other markets) before applies to the North American version of the vehicle.

However, one aspect we were uncertain of was the continued presence of the manual transmission. We asked, and Mitsubishi is officially dropping the stick shift version of the Outlander Sport with this update. It was previously only available on the base trim level, exclusively paired with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Mitsubishi was one of the last holdouts to offer a manual transmission option in the small crossover market, and now they're officially out. Three-pedal versions of the Outlander Sport represented just 2% of total model sales, so the business case just wasn't there anymore.

People Train For Disaster 3 Years After Big Quake

People train for disaster 3 years after big quake

People in Uki City, Kumamoto Prefecture, have renewed their preparedness for natural disasters one day before the third anniversary of the deadly quake that hit the region.

About 80 people, including Buddhist monks from nearby temples, gathered at a public hall in the city on Saturday. They first observed a moment of silence to mourn the victims.

Panasonic Shares Plunge After Profit Warning, Tesla's Big Maxwell Deal

Panasonic shares plunge after profit warning, Tesla's big Maxwell deal

TOKYO — Panasonic shares fell almost 6.5 percent on Tuesday after the electric vehicle battery maker reported a drop in quarterly earnings and cut its full-year outlook, just as EV partner Tesla branched out in battery tech. The Japanese firm on Monday chopped 9 percent from its operating profit outlook after booking a 19 percent drop in October-December, blaming weak demand for auto components and factory equipment in China, where the economy is slowing. Both figures were far below analyst estimates. Later on Monday, EV maker Tesla said it had agreed to buy U.S. energy storage company Maxwell Technologies for $218 million in an all-stock deal that could help the electric car maker produce batteries that hold more energy and last longer at a time when it needs to cut costs and faces growing competition. Maxwell executives told investors in January that it had developed and patented a "dry electrode" technology that could significantly increase the driving range and reduce the cost of electric vehicle batteries. In a presentation, Maxwell said it expected strategic alliances "within six months" centered around this technology. The company also makes ultracapacitors, which discharge energy faster than batteries and are seen as complementing battery technology. Ultracapacitors, combined with the energy of batteries, can enable rapid response times, function across a broader temperature range and lengthen battery life by up to two times, according to a blog post on Maxwell's website. Volvo-owner Geely Holding Group last May announced a deal with Maxwell and described the company's ultracapacitor technology as helping to deliver "peak power" for hybrid cars. "Tesla needs Maxwell's solvent-free battery electrode manufacturing for a viable path to lower battery costs," said Craig Irwin of Roth Capital Partners. "Real competitors are coming now, so Tesla needs to move fast." Maxwell sells ultracapacitor cells to General Motors and Volkswagen AG subsidiary Lamborghini. Panasonic is the exclusive battery cell supplier for Tesla, which in turn is Panasonic's biggest EV battery client. The Japanese electronics firm also makes types of ultracapacitors. Industry analysts in Japan pointed to Panasonic's outlook as the main source of investor concern on Tuesday, saying the Maxwell deal's impact on Panasonic was as yet unclear."The latest earnings have revealed how tough the situation is for Panasonic," said analyst Masahiko Ishino at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

The Maxwell deal comes as Panasonic is set to lose its exclusivity with Tesla, whose Chief Executive Elon Musk said the U.S. EV maker plans to source battery cells locally for a new car factory in Shanghai, "most likely from several companies.

Toyota, Panasonic Announce Big Ev Battery Joint Venture

Toyota, Panasonic announce big EV battery joint venture

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp and Panasonic Corp are launching a joint venture next year to make electric vehicle (EV) batteries, leveraging the heft of one of the world's largest automakers and battery makers to expand their EV push. Toyota will own 51 percent of the joint venture, and Panasonic the rest, the two companies said in a joint statement on Tuesday, confirming previous reports. The joint venture, which builds on an initial lithium-ion battery partnership struck between the two companies in late 2017, reflects the aim of the Japanese companies to become a bigger global player in the battery industry, which is vital for the development of affordable EVs. The two companies will pool part of existing battery-related equipment and engineers to the joint venture. Panasonic will also transfer its manufacturing capabilities in Japan and China for its thin, rectangular prismatic batteries. The two companies will transfer a total of 3,500 employees. Batteries produced by the joint venture will be sold to various automakers. The capital size of the venture has not been decided yet, the two companies said. While Panasonic is one of the world's biggest EV battery suppliers, it is facing rising competition from South Korean makers Samsung SDI Co and LG Chem, and CATL of China. Panasonic is currently Tesla's exclusive battery cell supplier, but Reuters reported that the U.S. EV maker has been in discussions with other companies including China's Tianjin Lishen to supply batteries for its new Shanghai car factory. Toyota and Panasonic already operate a joint venture called Prime Earth EV Energy, which manufactures batteries mainly used in gasoline hybrid vehicles. The new joint venture also shows that Toyota is expanding further into development and production of EV batteries just as many rivals have been stepping away from their development due to the heavy costs involved.