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Nissan Chief: Hybrid Cars a "Terrible" Business Prospect Date Posted 09-23-2005 PARIS, France — Not all automakers are rushing headlong to embrace hybrids as a solution to fuel economy woes. Carlos Ghosn, joint CEO of Nissan and Renault, described gasoline-electric hybrid cars as a "terrible business proposition," despite moves by many rivals to expand production of the vehicles. "Hybrid sales account for less than 1 percent of global sales," Ghosn said. "It is a niche technology. The question is how much the consumer is willing to pay for them, and if they are unsure at $70 a barrel [for oil] then I would be very worried. For now it is a terrible business prospect," he said. Toyota and Honda, Nissan's Japanese rivals, have both reported strong sales of hybrids in the U.S. in the past two years, while BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have all announced plans to boost hybrid production. However, GM and Ford have both admitted the technology is not likely to be profitable for years, while Toyota and Honda say hybrids have narrower margins than gasoline cars. Ghosn described demand for hybrids as "anecdotal" and added he remained unconvinced that consumers wanted petrol-electric vehicles rather than fuel-efficient diesel cars, cars that use "flex-fuel" — which has a higher alcohol content — or fuel-cell vehicles. "We have seen no significant shift in the market," he said. "We have to be careful that we don't try to impose a technology on the market." Nissan has a hybrid Altima sedan on their future slate. Prototypes are currently in circulation of this vehicle, which is slated to appear in the fall of 2006 as a 2007 model. Rather than developing its own hybrid engine, Nissan has instead licensed the system used on the Prius by Toyota. What this means to you: People love hybrids, but there are other options out there that might make more sense. (Inside Line)

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