Tony O'Kane | Mar 27, 2009

Back in the late 1990s, Nissan found itself in quite a predicament. It was suffering from declining sales, burdened by a bloated product catalogue and all but crippled by the Asian economic crisis.

Sound familiar? It should, give or take some details, Nissan was in a similar bind to that faced by America's major automakers today.

Thankfully Nissan managed to survive its troubles thanks in large part to the intervention of Renault, who on March 27 1999, struck a crucial alliance with the Japanese manufacturer and installed Carlos Ghosn as Chief Operating Officer of the ailing company.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Ghosn initiated a fat-cutting campaign, trimming Nissan's line-up of unnecessary models, laying off thousands of workers and shutting down several plants, thus earning the France-based Ghosn the nickname "Le Cost-Cutter" in the process.

Ten years on, however, and both Renault and Nissan are healthier than ever.

Nissan R35 GT-R Carlos Ghosn

Platform and component-sharing have cut development, tooling and manufacturing costs for both companies, and each has contributed large amounts of cash to the other at various points in the relationship.

Despite sharing parts and platforms, both companies happily occupy their own little niche of the global automotive landscape - Nissan has Japan, North America, Mexico, China and the Middle East, while Renault has Europe, North Africa and South America all stitched up.

Considering Nissan's dire financial position at the end of the last century (when Renault bought into it, Nissan had just notched up a $6.1 billion yearly loss), Nissan's successful turnaround should be a beacon of hope for America's besieged automakers.

All GM, Chrysler and Ford need now is a wealthy benefactor to shack up with, a model line-up that doesn't cannibalise itself, and few good men to take the helm.

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