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Q&A with Carlos Ghosn

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(CNN) -- Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of both Nissan and Renault, answers questions from you.

Q. At what age did you get your first car and what was it?

Ghosn: "At the age of 20 I bought a used Fiat 127. This was the only one I could afford!"

Q. How do you manage to be the boss both of two of the world's biggest car companies, as well as find time to be a husband and father?

Ghosn: "I have two basic rules. The first is as CEO of two companies, if you want to do your job well and try to avoid shattering yourself into many things, you have to focus on priorities, which means you have to define what are the priorities and be disciplined enough to get it done and stop yourself from getting distracted by other things.

"And because you are focusing on priorities you have to make sure there is a clear delegation of power and responsibilities on everything that you do not consider a priority but which may still be very important for the company to be done by other executives, either members of the Executive Committee or members of the corporate officers. That is number one.

"Number two is you have to be disciplined to make sure your weekends are free and not take any work home with you on the weekend. Even if I had to work until midnight every single weekday, I make sure I am disciplined and have Saturday and Sunday with my family. The weekend is completely for them. Because I can't give them a large quantity of time, I make sure the time we spend together is quality time."

Q. What inspires you?

Ghosn: "Any job very well done that has been carried out by a person who is fully dedicated is always a source of inspiration. And by job I don't necessarily mean somebody in the company. It could be someone outside the company. It might be an artist, or whoever. Every single job very well done by somebody fully dedicated is always a source of inspiration."

Q. Where did you spend your most recent holiday?

Ghosn: "The last holiday I had was between Christmas and New Year last year. I was in Brazil, spending time in the city of Rio de Janeiro and the surrounding mountains with my family."

Q. What is your favorite word?

Ghosn: "Commitment. This is my favorite word because in some way, people who are committed are always much more interesting and much more reliable, and much more, I would say, deep than people who are not. This is valid not only for a company, it also applies in the political arena or social arena. People who are really committed to something are usually more interesting, more reliable that they are going to do something and they have much more depth into what they are committed to."

Q. How would you spend your time if you had an extra hour in the day?

Ghosn: "If I had an extra hour, I would allocate half to reading and half to exercise. So, I would spend 30 minutes reading. I have a lot of books waiting for me to be read that I would love to read, and the other 30 minutes would be spent exercising."

Q. How do you build an understanding of the market and what the consumer wants? Anyone can launch a vehicle but what do you rely on to bring out vehicles that sell so well?

Ghosn: "It all starts with a very lucid end-objective: analysis of the unmet needs on a particular segment where we are preparing to launch a car. It is a very thorough analysis where we try and understand what consumers are complaining about on the existing offer -- coming from all competitors -- and try to make sense of it. So this is the first step: getting a really clear understanding of the unmet needs as expressed by the consumer. That is number one.

"Number two, obviously in terms of behavior, requires a lot of listening. You have to listen to everything. You have to listen to the people who have a negative opinion as well as those who have positive opinion. Just to make sure that you are blending all these opinions in your mind before a decision is made. The key is that all the debates about the next product should not take place while the product is being developed. It has to take place upstream. It has to take place before you start drawing the products to have maximum level of convergence before even the first pencil starts to draw any design.

"So I would say a lot of listening, a lot of upstream thinking, high level of lucidity. Not trying to please ourselves or not criticize what exists from competitors -- and zooming in on the unmet needs. Unmet needs should not be fuzzy. They should be some extremely clear so everyone can understand them.

"And obviously it is a collective effort. It is just one person sitting in an office doing this, it's a team effort, with experts, each of whom has expertise in one particular field trying -- not to please the boss -- but really trying as much as possible to help the company find the right track that may ensure a successful car."

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Ghosn relaxes at a Japanese restaurant in Rio de Janeiro with his mother, Rose (right).

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