The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance narrowly held onto its place as the top seller of cars a year ago despite the spectacular arrest of its boss Carlos Ghosn, figures showed on Wednesday, very narrowly beating Volkswagen and Toyota.
Once the three carmakers were more closely integrated, Mr Ghosn wanted to ensure there would be "autonomy under one holding company", the newspaper said.
But this is understood to have ruffled feathers at Nissan - with Mr Ghosn claiming it eventually led to his arrest as opponents sought to block the plan. He repeated his denials of any wrongdoing and said, "People translated strong leadership to dictator, to distort reality" for the "purpose of getting rid of me".
Local publication the Nikkei Asian Review said it was able to talk to him in person for around 20 minutes.
They saw an increase of 1.4 percent as compared to the 10.61 million units sold in 2017, despite being rocked by controversy in November 2018 with the arrest of CEO Carlos Ghosn who is facing charges of financial impropriety.
Mr Ghosn faces three charges in Japan of financial misconduct, including understating his income and aggravated breach of trust. The payment was made from Ghosn's "CEO reserve", a pot of money that he was free to decide how to spend.
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It was the first press interview Ghosn has given since his stunning arrest on November 19, conducted in the Tokyo detention centre where he has languished ever since. Mr Ghosn has not been allowed to meet or communicate with family members and his repeated requests to be released on bail have been denied by Japanese authorities, despite providing assurances to wear an ankle tracking device and personally pay for security.
In the interview, he insisted he was not a flight risk. "I will defend (myself)", according to the Nikkei. "All the evidence is with Nissan, and Nissan forbids all employees to talk to me". He denied the accusations and claimed "the executive in charge of the region signed [the approval]".
Also Wednesday, Nissan Motor Co. said its global sales totaled 5.65 million vehicles previous year, while Renault SA of France, which owns 43 percent of Nissan, recorded global sales of 3.9 million vehicles.
Toyota Motor Corporation sold 10.59 million vehicles globally previous year, fewer than the 10.83 million delivered by German rival Volkswagen, the Japanese automaker said on Wednesday.
In the interview, Ghosn reiterated his insistence that he is innocent and said others in the company schemed to force him out with a "plot and treason".
'Our investigation is ongoing, and its scope continues to broaden.