Home » The Men Who Helped Carlos Ghosn Escape Had A Far Worse Fate

The Men Who Helped Carlos Ghosn Escape Had A Far Worse Fate

Carlos Ghosn Aagain

Monday is all about CEOs behaving badly. We learn more about the fate of the men who helped ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn escape. Tesla chief Elon Musk tries to out-cringe Tim Robinson in San Francisco. Skoda’s top dude has some bad news about China. Finally, Stellantis CEO Carlos Taveres has a lump of coal for workers in Illinois.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

The Human Cost Of The Failed Renault Nissan Alliance Continues To Rise

Ghosn Time

It’s well-trodden territory, but in case you’ve missed it here’s a rough rehash of what happened to former Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi CEO Carlos Ghosn:

  • As a Michelin Exec, Ghosn gets a job offer to join Renault and helps bring the company to profitability.
  • Ghosn gets put in charge of Nissan as part of new Nissan-Renault alliance.
  • Ghosn does well, Nissan becomes profitable, and someone makes a manga about how great he is.
  • Ghosn becomes Chairman/CEO of Renault and CEO of Nissan at the same time. He tries to balance Renault’s goal of taking over Nissan and Nissan’s goal of not being taken over by Renault.
  • Allegedly feeling underpaid and undervalued, Ghosn (and other Nissan execs) work to get him paid through various questionable measures.
  • An increasingly worried Nissan “discovers” the payment schemes (that Ghosn claims they were aware of) and starts an investigation.
  • Ghosn is arrested and jailed in Japan’s notoriously terrible prison system and gets fired.
  • Ghosn gets released on a pretty lax house arrest and flees the country to Lebanon in a private jet during an operation organized by an American ex-Green Beret, his son, and an old associate.

Because Lebanon does not extradite its citizens, Ghosn has been living in a mansion in Beirut (that was essentially purchased by Nissan). The two guys who helped him escape? They weren’t so lucky, and were extradited from the United States to Japan and had to serve time in prison.

I bring all this up because there’s a good feature in Bloomberg that’s worth reading: “Ghosn’s Daring Escape Cost His Extraction Crew Their Freedom.”

Former Green Beret Michael Taylor organized the affair with the help of his son Peter and another guy. Both Taylors spent real time in jail, with the father sentenced to two years and the son sentenced to 20 months. Both were released early and are now back in the United States.

The big question is: What’s Ghosn going to do? The Taylors insist that Ghosn owes them money for their legal fees and for their escape. Ghosn response to that, saying:

“I’m glad that it is over for them,” he said in an interview in Beirut. “The human cost has been tremendous.”

As for any additional payments to the Taylors, Ghosn declined to go into the details of any agreements. “I am not the type of person who does not honor his contract, particularly for those who have been helpful,” he said.

How much money Ghosn actually has is one of the big open questions. It’s also worth mentioning that Greg Kelly, the ex-Nissan exec in charge of keeping Ghosn from leaving the company and taking a job elsewhere, also spent more time in prison than his old boss. He was released in March.

Is Elon Musk’s Twitter Move A Liability To Tesla, Part Duex

Elon Musk

It was just last week that I shared a report claiming Elon Musk was considering using Tesla stock as collateral for better loans to cover his Twitter purchase. The value of new loans are, of course, contingent of the value of Tesla stock, which is, to some extent, tied to how people perceive Elon Musk.

Tesla’s stock, as of the previous close, was down approximately $221 for the year, or 55%. Since purchasing Twitter, Tesla’s stock has dropped from $228 to $179. It’s been a tough year for tech stocks, with Apple down about 19% over the last year, so it’s not fair to say that Tesla’s stock has tumbled exclusively because of Twitter.

Reporting on Elon Musk is exhausting and people love to write about Elon Musk because it does numbers and I don’t want to get sucked into that game. A question we ask around here a lot is: Would we cover it if it weren’t Elon Musk? Often the answer is: No. So we don’t.

If Mary Barra had been booed off stage at a Bill Burr gig after tweeting some utterly stupid nonsense would we write about it? Yeah, probably. Without getting into all the details, there’s clear evidence that Musk was loudly jeered after being brought on stage by Dave Chapelle at an event in San Francisco. I’m not going to post the video because it’s easy to find and extremely cringe. Just walk way. Just walk away.

Elon Musk’s foray as the richest man on earth is already in peril (if you can even use that word to describe being the richest man on earth) as his Tesla stock is the biggest key to his wealth. Recently, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas (via Yahoo! Finance) estimated that Musk’s Twitter adventure could wipe another quarter off Tesla’s value:

Tesla shares are currently in the throes of bearish sentiment momentum,” wrote the longtime Tesla bull, predicting Tesla could test his $150 bear case price target before the year is out.

[…]

Having spoken to a number of investors, Jonas believes confidence in Musk’s leadership at Tesla has been tested owing to the nonstop drama at Twitter, with both consumers and business partners potentially turning their backs on the EV industry leader amid the controversy.

I guess we’ll see. I really don’t want to talk about Tesla stocks anymore, so let’s move on to some important stuff: Skodas.

Skoda Might Pull Out Of China Because China Doesn’t Appreciate Great Cars, I Guess

Skoda China

I’ve got some bad news for Chinese Skoda fans — a group of people I assume exist and have just been ignoring me on Weibo for some reason. According to a profile in European automotive news site ‘Automobilewoche,’ Skoda CEO Klaus Zellmer says the Czech VW subsidiary is thinking about leaving the market:

“The competition is very intense there, so we will consider, together with our Chinese joint venture partner, how we want to proceed.”

Very intense might be an understatement. Skoda currently builds and sells vehicles there through its joint venture with SAIC. Unfortunately, foreign joint ventures haven’t been performing as well lately as domestic Chinese companies are building more competitive vehicles.

It’s not all bad news for Skoda fans in China, however, as the company may still sell cars in the country that are produced somewhere else. You know what country would appreciate Skoda? America. We already love kolaches, Pilsner Urquell, Brendan Frazer…

Stellantis Is Shutting Down Its Belvidere Plant

Dodge Monaco

Workers at the manufacturing facility in Belvidere, Illinois have been making vehicles for various Chrysler entities since Lyndon Johnson was president. Everything from Dodge Monacos (Monacoes? Monégasques?) and our beloved Plymouth Neons have rolled out of the facility. More recently, the plant was used to build Jeep Cherokees.

No more.

Stellantis used Friday to dump the news that it was pulling the plug on the facility, indefinitely. From an Automotive News story we have a vague explanation as to why:

“Our industry has been adversely affected by a multitude of factors like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the global microchip shortage, but the most impactful challenge is the increasing cost related to the electrification of the automotive market,” Stellantis said in a statement. “Stellantis has taken a number of actions to stabilize production and improve efficiency at its North American facilities to preserve affordability and customer satisfaction in terms of quality. While it considers other avenues to optimize operations, Stellantis has made the decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant effective Feb. 28, 2023.”

Here’s the UAW response:
“We believe Stellantis is grossly misguided in idling this plant which has produced profits for the company since 1965,” UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement. “Not allocating new product to plants like Belvidere is unacceptable. Announcing the closure just a few weeks from the holidays is also a cruel disregard for the contributions of our members from UAW Locals 1268 and 1761. We will fight back against this announcement.”
According to GoodCarBadCar, Jeep Cherokee sales peaked in 2018 with 239,437 sold. Last year, Jeep sold 89,126 of the Cherokee and this year the company has moved just 30,852 through the first 11 months.

The Flush

If you could be CEO of any automotive company in the world, what would it be?

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Photos: Nissan, Tesla, Skoda, Stellantis

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63 Responses

  1. The Flush, I’d be CEO of Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep separated from Stellantis. Stellantis is just too big, each brand is ending up with like 1 car, it’ll be back to the 40s, “The new Dodge, with big brakes!” which model? What do you mean? We said “The Dodge!”

    I’d integrate RAM back into Dodge, make the Durango a Chrysler to compete with the Escalade, and electrify something other than a mini-van and Wrangler. Maybe a cool Barracuda coupe halo car or something.

  2. I’d be CEO of JLR.

    1. They’re hiring at the moment.
    2. I’m British, so that’s one qualification done.
    3. Can’t be worse than the last guy.
    4. What more could they ask for?

      1. Same old story, those with money are good at making sure other people get in trouble. Although I gotta say, I’m not sure how safe I’d feel in Beirut using mercs for security when I screwed over other mercs getting there.

  3. Flush: Given my almost perfect lack of qualifications to be a CEO of an automotive company, it should be a company I hate. Who needs to hurry up and fold? I might doom the Devil 16, but I don’t want to be extradited and executed, so that’s out. Let’s go with Fisker Inc. I’m just tired of hearing about it.

  4. CEO of Mitsubishi to actually make a competitive lineup, and I don’t just mean bring back the Evo with Nissan VC turbo or Z guts but a complete restructuring to make people actually want a Mitsubishi other than being affordable etc

  5. There’s never a good time to announce layoffs, but why do car companies always do it at Christmas time? For fun? To remind employees that they’re nothing more than rented equipment? Covid-19 and material shortages are new speak for, “It’s nothing personal, just business.” Memo from Stellantis: “We’ve made poor decisions and poor products. So we get raises and you get to spend more time with your families. Everybody wins!”

  6. Ferrari, but the road car side. My God, the profit margins.

    May I humbly suggest that when I say remember me, please do so, or at least redirect me to the thread I was on so I don’t have to start over. Additionally I had to go to email to get back in.

    I love this site so I joined. Please make it easier to love you more.

  7. CEO of any automaker? Probably Morgan, love their products, and they’re privately held. I’d rather be president of a democratic country than be CEO of any publicly traded company, and I’d rather drink a vat of battery acid than be president of a democracy

  8. Regarding Elon Musk… some here and in other places have said that Musk should step aside and let less impulsive execs run Tesla. And I’ve been thinking that the Twitter thing has basically achieved that.

    And given that Tesla continues to succeed and grow at a high rate, the shares are a bargain right now.

    The flush: For me it would be Tesla. Then after getting current projects out the door, the next projects would be a car slotted below the Model 3 that would basically be a Honda Fit with a Tesla powertrain as well as a van – in cargo and passenger forms
    .
    And I would also introduce optional Velour interiors across the range.

  9. Rivian should buy the Belvedere factory, considering they already have another location in that state.

    Also, it is a very good location strategically, being close to a major railroad, a major highway, and a major airport. Someone should snap it up.

    Why can’t they just make something else there? They have some awesome cars in Europe not sold here, so maybe they can make some of those here. The Berlingo is awesome.

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