Business / Corporate

Nissan chief holds first meeting with new Renault chairman

Kyodo

The leaders of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA met Thursday for the first time since the French automaker appointed new leadership in the wake of former chief Carlos Ghosn’s arrest more than two months ago over alleged financial misconduct.

During the discussions in Amsterdam, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard are expected to reaffirm their commitment to maintaining an alliance that has grown into one of the world’s largest car manufacturing groups.

The two are likely to hold off on negotiating major changes to the capital tie-up, including a possible full-fledged merger that is believed to have been under consideration by the French government, Renault’s top shareholder.

“The capital structure is not going to be a topic,” a Nissan official said. “The primary objective is to build a personal relationship between the top leaders.”

The talks in Amsterdam coincide with a regular two-day meeting that will run through Friday between members of the alliance, which also involves Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Mitsubishi Motors chief Osamu Masuko will take part via video conference call, according to a company official.

Renault named Senard, who has headed French tire-maker Michelin since 2012, as chairman and promoted deputy CEO Thierry Bollore to chief executive last week, replacing Ghosn who remains in detention in Tokyo following his arrest in November. Both Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have also removed him as chairman.

At a news conference following the appointment, Senard said that strengthening the alliance was one of his “major priorities.” Saikawa has said he hopes to have “sufficient communication” with his new peer.

Ghosn’s arrest by Japanese prosecutors has led to renewed speculation over the future of the tripartite alliance, which in 2018 was the world’s second-largest carmaking group behind Volkswagen AG with 10.75 million units sold.

French President Emmanuel Macron has publicly downplayed any hopes for a merger, earlier this week calling for preserving “balance” among the members.

But the French government’s desire to hold more influence over Nissan, of which Renault holds a 43.4 percent stake with voting rights, is at odds with the Japanese automaker’s insistence on maintaining its independence.

The rift has been fueled by a feeling of unfairness among some within Nissan, which holds only a 15 percent stake in Renault without voting rights but contributes to about half of its net profit.