BLOG: Does Carlos Ghosn owe Akio Toyoda an award?

Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn may have unknowingly left himself in an awkward position the next time he sees Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda.

At the Geneva auto show Ghosn said: “I do not think that there is anyone making money in Russia, and if there is one it is worth an award.”

He might have to start polishing that trophy.

“We made a profit in Russia in 2015,” Didier Leroy, Toyota’s No. 3-ranking global executive, said in Geneva, adding that the automaker also made a profit there in 2014.

Four out of the five brands that Ghosn’s alliance sells in Russia suffered double-digit declines in sales (Datsun was the exception) in Russia, where the overall market was down by 36 percent to 1.6 million units.

In addition, Ghosn’s AvtoVAZ, which is the maker of Russia’s top-selling Lada brand, tripled its losses to 74 billion rubles (about $930 million) last year.

Toyota, which closes its 2015-2016 fiscal year on March 31, includes Russia in its definition of Europe. The figures include automotive operations as well results from Toyota’s captive financial arm.

Toyota’s resilient profitability in Russia has a lot to do with the success of premium brand Lexus, which increased sales 6 percent to 20,224 vehicles. Meanwhile sales at Lexus rival Infiniti fell 39 percent to 5,495.

Put another way, profitable Lexus models accounted for 17 percent of Toyota Group’s Russia sales last year while Ghosn’s alliance sold roughly one Infiniti for every 100 Ladas, Renaults, Nissans and Datsuns.

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