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Carlos Ghosn says German automakers are finest ready to tackle Tesla


International refugee auto manager Carlos Ghosn said he believes German automakers are best positioned to challenge electric vehicle driver Tesla.

Ghosn, who spoke from Lebanon where the former Nissan chairman fled to evade Japanese authorities, specifically mentioned Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen during a Friday interview with CNBC’s Phil LeBeau during “The Exchange”.

“In my opinion it will be a German company,” said Ghosn. “The Germans are the first who, after heavily criticizing and mocking the electric car in 2008, suddenly realized that they have to move and do it quickly.”

Ghosn, who is promoting a new book called “Broken Alliances: Inside the Rise and Fall of a Global Automotive Empire,” said Japanese automakers were slowly switching to electric vehicles and that it was going to hurt them. He didn’t mention General Motors or Ford Motor, both of which are investing billions in the technology.

Volkswagen has been particularly aggressive in expanding its worldwide sales of electric vehicles. The German automaker expects that by 2030 more than 70% of the European sales of its Volkswagen brand will be electric cars. In the USA and China, he expects half of all sales of electric vehicles by then.

Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, gestures as he speaks to the media at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut, Lebanon on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.

Hasan Shaaban | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Speaking of the recent surge in electric vehicle startups, Ghosn said he believes that many companies “will prosper as long as they pull together their actions.” He didn’t mention any by name, but some of the best-known companies are Rivian, Lucid, Fisker, and Lordstown Motors.

“I’m very optimistic that some of the startups will turn electric cars and autonomous cars around,” said Ghosn.

Ghosn, who protests his innocence, said he fled Japan because he had “no chance” of a fair trial. He secretly fled the country on December 29, 2019 with the help of a former U.S. Army Green Beret and son, both serving prison terms in Japan. Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor were arrested by US authorities in Massachusetts in spring 2020 and extradited to Japan in March.

When asked about the Taylors, Ghosn echoed concerns about the Japanese legal system and its high conviction rates.

“I feel bad for them. I feel bad for all of the people who go through the system, especially if you are a foreigner,” he said.

Ghosn was initially arrested in Japan in November 2018 on charges of financial misconduct and misuse of company resources.

Ghosn reiterated on Friday that he hopes to be able to leave Lebanon one day.