NEW ORLEANS – Carlos Ghosn, preparing to take the helm of Renault SA, says that doesn’t mean the French auto maker will reenter the U.S. market – at least not immediately.

Calling the U.S. a “high-risk, high-reward” market, the auto executive who oversaw Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s remarkable turnaround, tells Ward’s the time is not right for Renault to sell cars in North America, although he doesn’t rule that out as an eventuality.

Nissan CEO
Carlos Ghosn

Renault pulled out of the U.S. market in 1987 after its disastrous merger with American Motors Co. ended with Chrysler Corp. acquiring AMC.

“Not in the foreseeable future, not in three to five years, but never say never,” he says of a Renault reentry in an interview during the 2005 National Automobile Dealers Convention here.

With Mardi Gras parties seemingly everywhere, Ghosn is the toast of the convention. He delivered the keynote speech and accepted the Automotive Hall of Fame’s leader-of-the-year award for his efforts in guiding Nissan out of debt and into profitability, with record car sales that increased 24% in 2004 compared with the previous year.

Ghosn takes the accolades in stride. All the praise, he says, “is for now; it doesn’t last forever.”

He will remain CEO at Nissan while assuming the same post at parent company Renault this spring. Renault holds a 44% stake in Nissan. If Renault were to return to the U.S., Ghosn says, “it would make a lot of sense” to sell the vehicles through Nissan dealerships.