The giant in hiding

Un - deux - trois

Un – deux – trois

Each year, the world’s top automakers scrounge up every last car they find in their spreadsheets to win the world’s most brutal car race: The one for World’s Largest Automaker. Officially, they don’t really mean it, officially, they say it’s a morale booster for the employees at best, but in the privacy of their offices, they all take it darn seriously. All, except one: The Nissan-Renault Alliance. It’s a giant in hiding.

World’s Largest Automakers
Full Year 2013 Sales Data
CY2013CY2012YoY
Toyota9,980,0009,700,0002.9%
GM9,714,6529,489,0002.4%
Volkswagen9,700,0009,070,0006.9%
Alliance8,266,0988,101,3102.0%
Hyundai Group7,479,0097,120,3745.0%
Ford6,330,0005,668,00011.7%
Source: Company data.

In 2013, the Alliance sold 8,266,098 units, which plants it solidly in fourth place, about halfway between Hyundai Group and Volkswagen, and about 2 million ahead of Ford (which, watch out, has the strongest growth of the pack). Renault sold 2,628,208 units worldwide in 2013, up 3.1% from 2012, despite a cratering EU market. Nissan sold 5,102,979 units worldwide, up 3.3%, shrugging off island problems in China. Avtovaz added 534,911 units to the tally, down 12.1% from 2012 amid the implosion of the Russian market which its Lada brand leads.

Nissan and Renault are joined, both at the hip and on top: Carlos Ghosn is CEO of both. The Renault-Nissan Alliance has a majority stake in Avtovaz. Ghosn is Chairman of Avtovaz. The members of the Renault-Nissan Alliance share platforms, know-how, managers, factories, and a tendency towards self-depreciation. At the Alliance, it’s a joint everything, except for annual statistics. When OICA, the umbrella organization of the world’s automakers, will publish its ranking of the world’s largest automakers, you won’t see an alliance on the list, its companies will hide among the also-rans.

Says Rachel Konrad, Detroit native and outspoken spokeswoman of the Renault-Nissan Alliance:

“Being No. 1 is something of a poisoned chalice in the auto industry. Our goal is not to be the biggest at any cost. The goal is to produce extremely high-value cars at every price point and in every segment – and one of the most important tactics is to maximize competitive economies of scale.”

One of the stupidest decisions in the long list of missteps of GM was not to hire Ghosn as CEO in 2006, as suggested by “dick”, and “idiot” Kerkorian, and not to join into one happy alliance. It would, by now,  produce close to 20 million units per year, a quarter of the world’s annual volume, it would have survived carmageddon intact, and, who knows, the UAW would be checking cards in Tennessee.  And being GM, they would count all the cars they can find.

NB: An earlier version of this story had conflicting numbers, claiming annual sales of  both 8,264,821 and 8,266,098. This was because the press release at the Renault-Nissan Alliance differed from the press release at Renault. We are trying to get the official number.