日产公司CEO卡洛斯•高森本来计划参加在八月底参加本次活动的一个环节，但由于公司高层闹起了内讧需要他亲自弹压，因而只能遗憾缺席。原因是雷诺公司（Renault）的首席运营官卡洛斯•塔瓦雷斯此前认为他接替高森成为雷诺—日产联盟的新老板已经是板上钉钉的事，但是现在大家都看出今年59岁的高森并没有任何退休或放权的迹象。因此55岁的塔瓦雷斯按捺不住心中的不快，公开对彭博社（Bloomberg）一位记者宣布，他将参与竞争通用汽车（General Motors）或福特（Ford ）的下一任CEO职位。两周后，塔瓦雷斯就从雷诺离职了。
The price of admission to the auto industry's top tier has just gone up. Exhibit One: Nissan's quadriennial 360 event, the latest edition of which concludes this month in Newport Beach, Calif. By the time it is over, more than 900 international journalists from Asia, Europe, and the Americas will be transported to the West Coast to drive some 125 new models and test vehicles on five tracks and off-road courses specially constructed for the occasion at a nearby abandoned Marine airfield. When not behind the wheel, Nissan's guests are socializing with company executives at the lush Pelican Hill resort overlooking the Pacific. Insiders report that American journalists ask the most questions, Europeans consume the most beverages, and the Chinese damage the most cars.
The bill for this kind of extravaganza is steep. When everything from travel to hotels to the actual costs of staging the event (buildings, cars, technology displays, and so on) is included, the total cost of the event will run about $10,000 per guest -- some $9 million in all. But as one executive explained, "When you spend billions on R&D, investing a few dollars more to show off the hardware makes good sense."
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was scheduled to attend a 360 session at the end of August but became a no-show when he had to tamp down an uprising in his executive ranks. One of his protégés, Carlos Tavares, the chief operating officer of Nissan's partner Renault, had seen himself succeeding Ghosn as head of the Nissan-Renault alliance But when it became apparent that Ghosn, 59, wasn't going anywhere, Tavares, 55, made his impatience publicly known by announcing to a Bloomberg reporter that he was making himself a candidate for the CEO job at General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) or Ford (F, Fortune 500) instead. Two weeks later, Tavares was out of his job at Renault
With Ghosn absent, the biggest attraction at Nissan 360 was not the GT-R supercar known as "Godzilla" or the van-like "taxi of tomorrow" soon to venture onto New York streets as the city's official yellow cab, or even any of the 37 historic and concept cars on display. Rather it was a homely Nissan Leaf outfitted with lasers, radar, sensors, and cameras that is Nissan's down payment on its pledge to develop the first production-capable autonomous vehicle: a car that drives itself.
As I learned on a test ride, "semi autonomous" is a more accurate description since the driver's seat must still be occupied by someone who has his eyes on the road and can take control in an emergency. A driver is also required in congested urban situations where the jumble of images would overwhelm the capacities of its electronic eyes and software algorithms. But as I watched from the back seat, the battery-powered Leaf overtook and passed a slower vehicle, exited a highway, and swerved around a pedestrian without any guidance from the driver beyond the activation of a turn signal.
Ghosn loves precise targets almost as much as he loves results, and he promises to have a semi-autonomous car ready to sell by 2020. Looming larger than the technical challenges are the regulatory and insurance issues that need to be solved by then, along with the adoption of common-sense behavioral issues. Does the ability of a car to drive itself mean that the person behind the wheel can text more intently or drink more heavily? And who pays the bills if a mishap befalls him as he does?