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Renault SA and its alliance partner, Nissan Motor Co., aim to reach an agreement in July to assume control of OAO AvtoVAZ, Russia’s biggest carmaker, two sources said.

Renault, which owns 25 percent of AvtoVAZ, and Nissan are in discussions on how to split an additional 25 percent stake, the sources said, declining to be named because the negotiations are private. The parties have previously said they aimed to wrap up talks by the end of 2011.

Renault and Nissan are in talks to buy shares in AvtoVAZ held by Russian Technologies Corp. and Troika Dialog, which each have 25 percent. The Togliatti-based manufacturer dominates the Russian car market with its Lada brand. By partnering with AvtoVAZ, the Renault-Nissan alliance aims to increase the three brands’ combined share to 40 percent.

“The alliance is still negotiating behind closed doors with AvtoVAZ and is not disclosing details of the negotiation,” Rachel Konrad, a Paris-based spokeswoman for Renault-Nissan, said Wednesday via email.

Valery Kartavtsev, a spokesman for Russian Technologies, declined comment, as did a spokeswoman for Troika Dialog.

Renault holds 25 percent of AvtoVAZ, while its Japanese partner doesn’t have a direct stake. The French carmaker, based in Boulogne-Billancourt, may seek to raise its stake to 35 percent, under “one hypothesis” in the talks, Konrad said Thursday, giving Nissan 15 percent.

Konrad was confirming comments that Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer of both Renault and Nissan, made to analysts this week. She reiterated that Renault will be the “dominant partner” in the AvtoVAZ partnership.

Weekend shifts begin

Kyodo

The auto industry began designated weekday shutdowns Thursday, with three major carmakers closing plants through Friday as part of efforts to save electricity.

The manufacturing bases will instead operate Saturday and Sunday, when electricity demand is traditionally lower.

Domestic automakers agreed in May to close all plants on Thursdays and Fridays from July to September to help reduce power consumption on weekdays, when electricity demand typically peaks, amid the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The three manufacturers — Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. — started to implement the plan a day earlier, on the last day of June. Among them, Honda decided to close all of its business bases, including its Tokyo headquarters, on Thursday.

Other makers, including Toyota Motor Corp., will follow the three on Friday.

At Nissan’s Oppama plant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, few people were seen entering or leaving, while at Honda’s headquarters, only those in charge of the show space for its new models on the first floor were working.

“We hope we can contribute to the reconstruction of the Japanese economy by achieving a balance between power-saving and auto production.” said Nissan’s chief operating officer, Toshiyuki Shiga, who also heads the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Most automakers, however, will open part of their production lines even on Thursdays and Fridays as their manufacturing activities are recovering from the disruption caused by the March 11 disaster.

The envisioned partial operations will enable them to achieve a 15 percent cut in electricity usage.

Some parts suppliers, meanwhile, fear that automakers’ weekend operations will disrupt their schedules, with one suppler saying: “We have business ties other than with automakers. It would be difficult for us to take holidays as we used to.”

Some municipalities that host auto plants have decided to provide day care services on weekends, while railways are tweaking their timetables for an expected increase in commuters on Saturdays and Sundays.

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