Ghosn on Middle East tour: Electric cars in Israel, factory in Morocco

Renault-Nissan president Carlos Ghosn is arguably one of the most effective automotive industry executives, and having just embarked upon a tour of the Middle East, may prove to be more effective than the endless stream of government and military envoys parading in and out of sand-swept capitals.

Ghosn flew to Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres and announced a project to launch an electric vehicle network in the country's burgeoning and overcrowded Mediterranean metropolis of Tel Aviv. The project, called "Better Place", is being led by former SAP executive Shai Agassi (seen shaking hands with Ghosn above), and is financially supported by Israel Corp, the holding company that controls shipping giant Zim and recently embarked upon an automotive joint venture in China. (The Knesset, Israel's parliament that usually has to support any such ventures itself financially, has paved the way by preparing supportive legislation.) Renault will develop the vehicles, which are projected to have a 160-km range on the highway, or 100 in the city, hit 100km/h (62mph) in 13 seconds and top out at 110 km/h. The cars are expected to hit the shuk (that's "market" in Hebrew and Arabic) in 2011.

While he was at it, Ghosn hopped over to Morocco to announce the construction of a new plant for Renault and Nissan. (Yes, we know Morocco is not technically part of the Middle East, but Northern Africa is often grouped together with it. So please don't shoot us.) The new factory in Tangiers will have a capacity of 400,000 vehicles per year and will employ 6,000 directly and 30,000 indirectly. Renault will use the facility to build cars on the cost-effective Dacia Logan platform, while Nissan will manufacture light commercial vehicles there, as well.

[Source: Reuters, Photo by DAVID FURST/AFP/Getty]

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