Nissan Motor Co. said it is in no way considering the dissolution of its alliance with Renault SA, which was shaken even further by the dramatic escape of former chairman Carlos Ghosn from trial in Japan.
“The alliance is the source of Nissan’s competitiveness,” the Yokohama-based company said in a statement Tuesday, pushing back against reports that its executives have looked at the possibility of breaking with the global carmaking partnership. “Through the alliance, to achieve sustainable and profitable growth, Nissan will look to continue delivering win-win results for all member companies.”
The future of the alliance, created two decades ago when Renault took a stake in a near-bankrupt Nissan and which added Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in 2016, was thrown into question over the past year after Ghosn’s arrest. The auto executive, who was detained in November 2018 and fled at the end of December to escape trial in Japan on charges of financial crimes, played a pivotal role in keeping the alliance together.
In a news conference last week, the first since Ghosn’s dramatic escape to Lebanon, the former chief executive officer of Nissan and Renault trashed the recent performance of the carmakers. Indeed, the two have struggled financially — their shares were the worst performers among major automakers last year — and have been drifting apart at a time when the costs of electrification and autonomous driving are pressuring incumbent carmakers to team up or consolidate.
It’s unclear how feasible any separation would be given that Renault holds 43% of Nissan’s shares as its biggest shareholder, while Nissan owns 15% of its French partner.
Even so, Nissan has been exploring the pros and cons of sustaining the alliance, particularly when it comes to engineering and technology sharing, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential matters. Those studies predate Ghosn’s escape from Japan and were preliminary, so no decision has been made, the person said.
The discussion over the future of the alliance underscores the fragile state of the relationship between the Japanese and French auto giants after the arrest and later escape of Ghosn, who balanced the world’s largest automotive alliance for years.
The board governing alliance agreed in November to work to “significantly enhance and accelerate the operational efficiency of the alliance for the benefit of the member companies, including action plans to maximize the contribution of the alliance to each company’s strategic plans and operating profit,” Nissan said in Tuesday’s statement.
By Reed Stevenson