Renault chairman says ‘real desire’ to make Nissan alliance work

Business

PARIS (Reuters) – Renault (RENA.PA) Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said on Thursday there was a “real desire” at the helm of the carmaker’s alliance with Nissan to make it a success, seeking to dispel suggestions the two decade partnership might be on the rocks.

FILE PHOTO: Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard attends a Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi chiefs’ joint news conference in Yokohama, Japan, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The Franco-Japanese alliance, long dogged by internal rivalries, was thrown into turmoil by the November 2018 arrest in Tokyo of its architect and long-time boss Carlos Ghosn on charges of financial crimes, which he denies.

Attempts to restore calm have recently been thwarted by Ghosn’s dramatic flight from Japanese justice and a series of no-holds-barred allegations he has made from his refuge in Lebanon, including that he was the victim of a plot to oust him and that the alliance is now a “masquerade”.

Nissan (7201.T) has vigorously denied any suggestion of a plot, while both the Japanese firm and Renault have rubbished suggestions their 20-year-old partnership is falling apart.

“We have a board overseeing the alliance which is made up of people who are all extremely in favor of the alliance,” Senard told a news conference, defending the changes he had made since joining Renault after Ghosn’s arrest.

“There is a common desire to associate our strategic plans and a real desire to make this alliance a success,”

Senard, who used to run tyre maker Michelin, has become the de facto senior figure in the partnership, though without the commander-in-chief aura Ghosn had, which had helped hold the alliance together.

While that is partly deliberate – as both parties are keen to avoid another Ghosn-style strongman and created a four-member operating board to oversee the alliance for example – Senard will have to deliver on launching joint new projects.

The 66-year-old has said these will move into focus once a management revamp is complete. A new CEO started at Nissan in December, and Renault is in the midst of seeking a new CEO after ousting Ghosn-ally Thierry Bollore in October.

Luca de Meo, who recently stepped down as the head of Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) Seat brand, is seen as the frontrunner, although a non-compete clause in his contract is proving a problem, sources close to the matter have told Reuters.

Interim CEO Clotilde Delbos is also in the frame.

Analysts view Renault-Nissan’s cost-cutting alliance as vital to both companies’ fortunes as the car industry battles a slowdown in demand and huge investments in cleaner vehicles and automated driving, particularly as rivals PSA (PEUP.PA) and Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI) are merging to help meet these challenges.

Reporting by Sarah White; editing by Mark Potter

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