RENAULT has named two experienced French motor industry executives to replace arrested boss Carlos Ghosn, signalling the start of a new era for the French carmaker and its vital but strained alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi.
Agence France Presse reports that Thierry Bollore, who has been running Renault since Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November, will take over as chief executive, while Jean-Dominique Senard, CEO of Michelin, has been named its new chairman.
In his first reaction to his appointment, Senard moved to reassure investors of his faith in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, calling it “absolutely essential”.
Ghosn, previously the most influential man in the global car industry, had resigned from both roles at Renault as he remains behind bars in Japan awaiting trial.
The 64-year-old had already been sacked as chairman of Mitsubishi as well as Nissan, where Ghosn is suspected of under-reporting tens of millions of dollars in income over eight years.
Nissan welcomed the Renault announcement, expressing hope for a “new chapter” in ties between the partners.
“In the big picture, this is a big milestone that we are reaching,” Nissan chief Hiroto Saikawa told reporters in Tokyo.
As head of Renault since 2005, Ghosn was the keystone of its alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi, forging an industry powerhouse which together sold more cars than any of its rivals last year.
But his globe-trotting career came screeching to a halt when Tokyo police arrested him on suspicion of financial misconduct.
Ghosn has denied the charges, but with his release from jail unlikely anytime soon, Renault’s board had been gearing up to name new directors.
The future of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance has been thrown into doubt with the arrest of Ghosn, who is widely credited with reviving Nissan and fusing together two vastly different corporate cultures.
Although Renault posted record sales of close on 4 million vehicles last year and is in rude financial health, it is grappling with the industry’s shift to electric cars as governments worldwide impose stricter emission cuts.
Electric vehicles require far fewer workers to build, and Renault has targeted four billion euros in cost cuts by 2022, even as it aims to lift revenue to 70 billion euros from 59 billion euros in 2017.
Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan, which in turn has just a 15 percent stake in its French partner.
But Nissan’s market value is nearly double that of Renault’s, prompting some to expect the Japanese side will seek to rebalance the terms of their relationship.
It’s unclear who will replace Ghosn as head of the alliance, a role traditionally reserved for Renault’s CEO, while Nissan chooses its vice president.
Ghosn is expected to stay behind bars for several months after seeing a second bail request was denied.
He faces three charges: two of under-declaring income and another of seeking to shift personal investment losses on to Nissan.
He has been seen in public only once since his arrest on November 19 stunned the business world, in a dramatic courtroom appearance where he passionately denied the charges and declared his ‘genuine love’ for Nissan.
Nissan CEO Saikawa, who oversaw his former mentor’s downfall, has stressed that the alliance is “absolutely not in danger.”
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