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Auto executive talks future of electric cars

Imagine if your car could sense when you are feeling tired while driving and react by playing your favorite upbeat song to energize you.
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Carlos Ghosn, the chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, a strategic alliance between the French and Japanese automakers, told a packed audience in Stamps Auditorium Tuesday that the future of the electric car industry could include that and many more interactive technologies that will enhance the driving experience.

Ghosn — who came to Ann Arbor after spending time at the Detroit Auto Show — said the Renault-Nissan Alliance is not a merger, but rather a partnership to benefit each independent car company. Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan’s shares and Nissan owns 15 percent of Renault’s shares to produce a combined total of eight million cars in the global market of 79 million cars, according to Ghosn.

Ghosn added that both independent companies are using each other’s resources to “produce synergies” and develop a competitive product in the market for electric cars.

“You need to keep the motivation, which is linked first from identity, but at the same time benefit from the scale of coming together,” Ghosn said.

The challenges the electric car industry is encountering are the same challenges that any innovative product faces when first entering a new market, Ghosn said. Innovators must instill a sense of familiarity into society with the introduction of a new invention before consumers can trust and utilize the product.

Ghosn added that Renault-Nissan must provide the additional resources — such as easily accessible charging stations — necessary for consuming the electric cars before the product can become widely popularized.

“This is kind of a de-bugging period,” Ghosn said. “Where the de-bugging is not only linked to the product but to the environment of the product.”

Ghosn told the audience that the world is prepared to accept the reality that electric cars will be more integrated into the global society. However, he added that governments must support the concept of electric cars as well. He pointed to the Chinese government’s removal on Sunday of all official cars from the streets of Beijing amid alarming pollution levels as a sign that ‘zero emission cars are a must.’”

Ghosn added that as the car-to-inhabitant ratio increases to close to 300 to 400 cars per 1000 inhabitants, electric cars are becoming more imperative to improve pollution levels.

“There is no way you are going to avoid this kind of technology,” Ghosn said.

In 10 years, electric cars should represent 10 percent of the market, Ghosn said, followed by a progressive decrease in pollution levels.


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