In spite of contraction in Europe and a series of natural disasters in Japan and Thailand that crippled supply, Renault-Nissan – with a tiny bit of help from Russian partner Avotvaz – sold 8.03 million cars in 2011. The record year outdid 2010 sales by 10 percent, with Nissan's sales growing 14% and Renault improving by 4.6 percent.

Breaking the eight-million barrier is likely to mean a little more shuffling at the top of the global sales chart: analysts suggest General Motors will take the top slot with around nine million sales, followed by Volkswagen and its record breaking 8.16 million sales, then Renault-Nissan in third taking the space everyone assumed would belong to Toyota. A tumble from first to fourth would convey just how difficult Toyota's year has been, extricating itself from the recall maelstrom only to get sucked into an earthquake, a tsunami and flooding.

Even with more pain expected from the European quadrant, Ghosn expects 2012 to break the record again.