Renault chief confident partnership with Nissan on track

Associated Press

Renault SA Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard appears to have put merger considerations on the back burner as longstanding partner Nissan Motor Co. needs time for a turnaround and a failed deal with rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV remains “dead.”

A closer tie-up with Nissan would best be discussed “when the business runs well, when strategy is set,” Senard told reporters. It’s “not an absolute necessity.”

“The dynamic of this alliance is changing,” said Jean-Dominique Senard. “Maybe not everybody is seeing this yet. Maybe not everything has cascaded down.”

Renault’s two-decade-old partnership with Nissan has been teetering on the brink since the arrest of its former leader Carlos Ghosn in Japan in November on allegations of financial crimes. Senard, who replaced him as Renault chairman and sits on Nissan’s board, has since pushed for a merger that Nissan didn’t want, and upset the Japanese partner even further by trying to combine with Fiat.

Senard insisted it’s not his role to push for a closer tie-up with Nissan. When the Renault chairman was queried about Fiat, he said there are no ongoing talks after the proposed deal with Renault collapsed. Asked whether he personally wanted to see a deal back on the table, he said, “Everybody has the right to have dreams.”

Both Renault and Nissan have pledged to salvage their alliance, which was built up as a way to save costs. Yet mistrust runs deep within the companies, raising the possibility of a split. For his part, Senard painted a more optimistic picture of their relationship, saying that only a minority of employees at Nissan were critical of the partnership.

“The dynamic of this alliance is changing,” he said. “Maybe not everybody is seeing this yet. Maybe not everything has cascaded down.”

Renault, Nissan and their smaller alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp. adopted a new governance structure in March, moving away from an organization under Ghosn that led to what Senard qualified as a “huge mess.”

The tensions within the alliance have also surfaced at a particularly sensitive time for the auto sector, which is facing a slump in Chinese volumes, uncertainty regarding new rules on emissions in Europe and Brexit. Nissan reported its worst performance in years in May, and Senard said the board should consider all options to improve the carmaker’s performance.

Adding to these considerations is an unprecedented transition to electric cars and higher-technology automated driving.

“Do we have enough resources to invest massively in what we think will be the technology of future? This is why I feel so anxious about the alliance,” he said, hinting that a need to pool resources may become a consideration. “Necessity sometimes helps.”