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Auto executive turned international fugitive Carlos Ghosn says German automakers are best positioned to challenge Tesla

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Auto executive turned international fugitive Carlos Ghosn says German automakers are best positioned to challenge Tesla

Auto executive turned international fugitive Carlos Ghosn said he believes German automakers are best positioned to challenge electric vehicle leader Tesla.

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

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“In my opinion, it’s going to be a German company,” Ghosn said. “The Germans are the first ones who, after criticizing the electric car heavily in 2008 and mocking it, discovered all of a sudden that they needed to move, and moved swiftly.”

Ghosn, who is promoting a new book called “Broken Alliances: Inside the Rise and Fall of a Global Automotive Empire,” said the Japanese automakers have been slow to move toward electric vehicles, and it’s going to hurt them. He did not mention General Motors or Ford Motor, both of which are investing billions in the technologies.

Volkswagen has been particularly aggressive in expanding its EV sales globally. The German automaker expects more than 70% of its Volkswagen brand’s European sales to be EVs by 2030. In the U.S. and China, it expects half of its sales to be EVs by that time frame.

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

Hasan Shaaban | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Regarding the recent surge in electric vehicle start-ups, Ghosn said he believes a lot of the companies will “prosper as long as they put their act together.” He did not mention any by name, but some of the most high-profile companies include Rivian, Lucid, Fisker and Lordstown Motors.

“I’m very optimistic about some of the start-ups turning around electric car and autonomous cars,” Ghosn said.

Ghosn, who has maintained his innocence, has said he escaped Japan because he had “zero chance” of getting a fair trial. He secretly fled the country on Dec. 29, 2019, with the help of a former U.S. Army Green Beret and his son, both of whom are serving prison sentences in Japan. Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor were arrested by U.S. authorities in Massachusetts in spring 2020 and extradited to Japan in March.

When asked about the Taylors, Ghosn reiterated concerns about Japan’s legal system and their high conviction rates.

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

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

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

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Auto executive turned international fugitive Carlos Ghosn says German automakers are best positioned to challenge Tesla