Nissan CEO and President Carlos Ghosn addressing the media in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Ghosn said he wants to see the automaker’s market share in the Middle East double. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Japanese car maker Nissan Motor Co Ltd. expects to be debt-free by the end of this year and is pinning hopes on a new platform for fuel efficient small cars to be launched next month to drive its global sales, the company's chief executive officer said here yesterday.

"During 2009, our debt shot up, but now it's going down. Cash is flowing again. By the end of 2010, Nissan's debt should be eliminated," Carlos Ghosn told reporters at a news conference.

"Last quarter, we were back in profit with a 6.7 per cent operating margin. We are going to launch lots of new products in 2010. There's a new V platform that we are going to launch in Geneva next month that will be used to manufacture cost efficient, fuel efficient, small cars," he added.

Ghosn said initially Nissan will build three new car models using the V platform and said he expects 2011 and 2012 to be much better years for the company compared to this year and last.

"The V platform cars are going to be small cars, very well priced and for everyone," he added.

Asked about rival Toyota's worst recall in its history involving more than 8 million vehicles and the opportunities it presented to Nissan to boost its own sales Ghosn said, "When a car company is in trouble you can have a tactical advantage in the short term, but don't expect more from that. It doesn't change the whole ball game. When one car company is having a problem, it's a lesson for everybody. I hope we don't have a similar problem."

Ghosn said the global car market was completely distorted due to the financial crisis last year and different regions were hit at different levels.

"In 2009, we had to drastically reduce our inventories in the US and Europe and had to seek governments' intervention to generate cash flows as banks were not lending at reasonable rates.

"The Japanese, French and US governments opened new credit lines for us, as we are big employers. Renault-Nissan employs 350,000, but there are 3.5 million people working with our group," said Ghosn.

Ghosn heads both Nissan and France's Renault SA. Renault owns 44 per cent of Nissan.

He said the French government had opened a credit line worth 3 billion euros for Renault.

Separately, Ghosn said he wants Nissan to double its market share in the Middle East, but didn't give a time frame.

"We are number two in the Middle East, behind Toyota. We are far from our potential in this region," he added. As well, Ghosn said Renault continues to be in discussions with the Algerian government authorities to build a Renault production facility in the North African country.

Regarding production of electric cars, he said they are the future of the global automobile industry since they have zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

"We have announced four electric cars for Nissan and four for Renault," said Ghosn.

Late on Saturday, in the first World Premiere in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) by a Japanese automaker, Nissan unveiled an all-new version of its flagship SUV model — Patrol in Abu Dhabi that's specifically designed for the Middle East market.

The 2010 Nissan Patrol will have seven variants priced between Dh180,000 and Dh270,000, ex-showroom. The car will be available for sale from April 2010 across the GCC.

Nissan claimed their latest Patrol has undergone 13,000 hours of testing in Arabian deserts and roads and comes with a fuel efficient 5.6-litre V8 engine with best-in-class power and torque, a 7-speed automatic transmission and a new 4WD system.