By Alex Taylor III

(FORTUNE Magazine) – When Nissan's Carlos Ghosn promised in 1999 to resign if he couldn't turn around the troubled automaker, oddsmakers penciled him in for a short stay. But after cutting costs, selling assets, and reenergizing workers, Ghosn (rhymes with "cone") is being hailed as a miracle worker. He didn't just rescue a doomed company--the 47-year-old Brazilian-born, French-trained Ghosn did it in Japan, known for its hostility to outsiders. The feat made him a celebrity (he stars in a Japanese comic book for businessmen) and earned him FORTUNE's Asia Businessman of the Year award for 2002.

Now Ghosn is making more promises: to boost Nissan's sales 25% by 2005 while raising operating margins to 8% from 6.3%. He is spending $930 million on a new plant in Canton, Miss., that will produce three vehicles aimed at the U.S. market: a full-sized pickup, an SUV, and a minivan. "Nissan has the potential to be the star among the Japanese," says Merrill Lynch's John Casesa.

Ghosn may have returned to parent Renault by the time that comes to pass. But wherever he is, chances are no one will bet against him this time.

--Alex Taylor III