No quick fix for Nissan's fraying ties with Renault

Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa said he wanted to preserve the spirit of equality in the alliance with Renault. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa said he wanted to preserve the spirit of equality in the alliance with Renault. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

YOKOHAMA • Nissan Motor yesterday threw cold water on hopes for a quick fix to its strained relations with France's Renault, saying inequality between the partners could unravel their two-decade-old auto-making alliance.

Speaking at Nissan's annual general meeting in Yokohama, its first since the dramatic ouster of former chairman Carlos Ghosn last year, chief executive Hiroto Saikawa said he wanted to preserve the spirit of equality in the alliance, despite a shareholding structure that Nissan has long seen as lopsided.

The meeting came just days after the two partners resolved a highly publicised disagreement between Mr Saikawa and Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard over appointments to Nissan's newly created governance committees.

"We want a win-win relationship with Renault. The alliance has been successful until now because we have respected each other's independence," Mr Saikawa said.

"If necessary, we will put our capital structure on the table. If the relationship becomes a win-lose one, the relationship will break up very quickly."

His comments signal Nissan's deepening concern over the relationship.

"Our priority is to recover our performance, which means postponing discussions on the future of the alliance," Mr Saikawa added. "It is critical to create opportunities in the future with Renault to discuss options for the alliance. I want to discuss these with Senard."

Shareholders at Japan's second-biggest automaker were due to vote on a new governance structure and 11-member board, after the arrest last year of Ghosn over financial misconduct allegations - which he denies - revealed auditing weaknesses at the company.

Renault, Nissan's biggest shareholder with a 43.4 per cent stake in the Japanese automaker, had demanded additional representation for its directors on Nissan groups overseeing company auditing and personnel nominations.

Mr Saikawa had initially pushed back the demands, but late last week, Nissan granted seats to Mr Senard and Renault CEO Thierry Bollore on its nominations and auditing committees, respectively.

Although that manoeuvring helped pull the Nissan-Renault alliance back from the brink of crisis - and may have saved Mr Saikawa's job - the former Ghosn lieutenant now has the unenviable task of trying to shore up the strained partnership.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2019, with the headline 'No quick fix for Nissan's fraying ties with Renault'. Print Edition | Subscribe