PARIS (Reuters) – Renault (RENA.PA) President Jean-Dominique Senard said Thursday that there was a “real desire” at the helm of the automaker’s alliance with Nissan to make it a success, rejecting suggestions that the two-decade partnership could be in jeopardy.
FILE PHOTO: Renault President Jean-Dominique Senard attends a joint press conference of the heads of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi in Yokohama, Japan on March 12, 2019. REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon
The Franco-Japanese alliance, long pursued by internal rivalries, was disturbed by the arrest in November 2018 in Tokyo of its architect and former chief Carlos Ghosn on charges of financial crimes, which he denies.
Attempts to restore calm have recently been thwarted by Ghosn’s dramatic escape from Japanese justice and a series of unrestricted accusations he has made from his refuge in Lebanon, including that he was the victim of a plot to overthrow him and that the alliance Now it is a “masquerade.”
Nissan (7201.T) has strongly denied any suggestion of a plot, while the Japanese company and Renault have rejected suggestions that their 20-year partnership is falling apart.
“We have a board that oversees the alliance, which is made up of people who are totally in favor of the alliance,” Senard said in a briefing with journalists, defending the changes he has made since joining Renault after the arrest of Ghosn
“There is a common desire to associate our strategic plans and a real desire to make this alliance a success,” he added, describing reports that Nissan was working on scenarios for a possible future outside the alliance as “fake news.”
The 66-year-old man repeatedly refused to comment on anything related to Ghosn, adding: “I only think about the future.”
Senard, who used to run the Michelin tire manufacturer, has become the de facto main figure of the alliance, although without the aura of Commander-in-Chief Ghosn, who had helped keep the society together.
While that is partly deliberate, as both sides want to avoid another strong Ghosn-style man and created a four-member operational board to oversee the alliance, for example, Senard will have to comply with the launch of new joint projects.
Senard said the board of the alliance will meet at the end of January to decide on industrial initiatives, which are focusing as the administration’s renewal progresses towards its completion.
A new CEO started at Nissan in December, and Renault is looking for a new CEO after overthrowing Ghosn-ally Thierry Bollore in October.
Luca de Meo, who recently resigned as head of Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) The seat brand is seen as the favorite, although a non-competition clause in its contract is proving to be a problem, sources close to the matter told Reuters.
The interim executive director Clotilde Delbos is also in the frame.
Senard said the Renault board of directors would probably meet soon to discuss the appointment, but added that there was no urgency since the provisional arrangements were working well.
Analysts believe that the Renault-Nissan savings alliance is vital to the fortunes of both companies, as the auto industry fights against the slowdown in demand and large investments in cleaner vehicles and automated driving, particularly as its rivals PSA (PEUP.PA) and Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI) are merging to help meet these challenges.
Renault held unsuccessful talks with Fiat Chrysler last year, which prompted some rules within Nissan. Ghosn described the failure to secure an agreement as a great missed opportunity.
Senard, who chairs the alliance’s operations board, said that once the partnership has stabilized, it could be attractive to other potential partners.
When asked if the shareholder structure of the company could change, Senard said it was not necessarily set in stone, but it was not an important priority either.
Renault, which considers the French state as one of its major investors, has 43% of Nissan, while the Japanese firm has 15% of the French automaker, without attached voting rights, a structure that has caused friction between partners
Reports by Sarah White and Gilles Guillaume; Additional reports by Matthias Blamont; edition by Mark Potter