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Motorists Getting Greyer, Greener, Thriftier: Nissan's Ghosn

Motorists are getting older, thriftier and more concerned about the planet, sending automakers back to the drawing board to develop cars to meet their needs, industry guru Carlos Ghosn said Friday.

"There is no doubt that 10 years down the road, the average age of a human being living on the planet is going to be higher," said Ghosn, who heads both Japan's Nissan Motor Co. and its French partner Renault.

"The average consumer on earth is going to be much older. We know also that usually the purchasing power is with older people. (That means) more money in the hands of the seniors and more seniors on Earth," he said.

Car makers like Nissan must therefore develop more speciality cars with devices such as cameras that making parking easier and reduce the risk of a stiff neck, he told a forum of engineers at Nissan's Tokyo headquarters.

Nissan has already introduced a rear parking camera and is also developing a system with cameras dotted around a vehicle to give motorists a bird's eye aerial view of the car on a dashboard display.

Another big consumer trend is less tolerance of greenhouse gas emissions, said Ghosn, who achieved legendary status in the automobile world for rescuing the loss-making Japanese automaker from the brink of bankruptcy.

Nissan has been slow to embrace hybrid vehicles, which are equipped with an electric motor and a standard petrol (gasoline) engine, making them much more economical and environment-friendly than conventional autos.

But in December it announced plans to develop its own hybrid and other "green" cars in an effort to catch up with rivals such as Honda and Toyota.

"Global warming is a big concern. Young people are going to be even tougher.

"People don't want to feel guilty when they drive a car," said Ghosn.

"At the same time they don't want to pay more money for the car," he added, noting the b ig media buzz surrounding the possibility of Nissan and Renault developing a 3,000-dollar car in India.

"If you can bring (out) a 3,000-dollar car you're going to make the car more popular," he told the engineers, predicting that the next decade would be "the golden years in terms of technological and know-how development."


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