'Real desire' to make partnership with Nissan work, says Renault chairman

The arrest of its former chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn, on financial crimes charges in November 2018, led to chaos within the company

Aiming to dispel insinuations that the two-decade partnership between Renault and Nissan was in tatters, Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said on Thursday a "real desire" was there at the forefront of making the relationship with Nissan a success.

The arrest of its former chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn, on financial crimes charges in November 2018, led to chaos within the company. Along with this, the partnership has been marred by internal rivalries.

The Ghosn fiasco

Renault Wikimedia Commons

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 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 favour of the alliance," Senard told a news conference, defending the changes he had made since joining Renault after Ghosn's arrest.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman of Nissan
Carlos Ghosn, Chairman of Nissan Nissan

Under Senard

"There is a common desire to associate our strategic plans and a real desire to make this alliance a success," said Senard, who used to run tire 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 the 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.

Front runner Luca de Meo

Luca de Meo, who recently stepped down as the head of Volkswagen's 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 and Fiat Chrysler are merging to help meet these challenges.

(With agency inputs)