• Bloomberg, AFP-JIJI


Nissan Motor Co. executives have examined the possibility of breaking away from Renault SA amid concerns that relations with the longtime French partner have turned dysfunctional after the ouster of former chief Carlos Ghosn, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Since last year, Nissan has been exploring the pros and cons of sustaining the alliance, particularly when it comes to engineering and sharing technology, according to the source, 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 source said.

Jean-Dominique Senard, the president of the Renault-Nissan alliance, denied that Nissan is mulling its termination. He said media reports had “no connection to the current situation of the alliance.”

“The Renault-Nissan alliance is not dead! Soon we will show you why,” he said in an interview with Belgian newspaper L’Echo published Tuesday.

“I ask myself, where does this sort of information come from? I am not sure it comes from a place of goodwill,” Senard said.

Britain’s Financial Times, citing “several people with knowledge of the matter,” said Monday that senior executives at the scandal-hit Japanese automaker were speeding up work on secret plans for a potential divorce with French partner Renault.

It’s unclear how feasible any separation would be given that Renault is Nissan’s biggest shareholder and the French partner has been pushing for ties to be repaired.

Still, the comments illustrate the fragile state of the relationship between the Japanese and French auto giants after Ghosn, who balanced the world’s largest automotive alliance for years as head of both companies, was arrested in late 2018 in Japan on allegations of financial misconduct. Ghosn’s legal odyssey took a dramatic turn recently when he fled Japan for Lebanon and became the world’s most famous fugitive.

Since Ghosn’s downfall, the two carmakers have struggled financially — their shares were the two worst performers among major automakers last year — and drifted apart at a time when the costs of electrification and autonomous driving are pressuring incumbent carmakers to team up or consolidate.

Relations between the two companies are “broken and likely beyond the point of repair,” Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst wrote in a note Monday.

Nissan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. It was Coming of Age Day in Japan. Renault declined to comment. The Financial Times reported earlier that Ghosn’s escape from Japan had spurred Nissan executives to accelerate secret contingency plans to potentially split from Renault.