Nissan's Shareholder Meeting Sure Sucked for Renault's Chairman

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard could have had a better time at Nissan’s shareholder meeting last week. New details of the event have come to us via Automotive News and they’re helping to showcase just how fractured the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance has become. While returning Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa focused on developing a succession plan for upper management, Senard attempted to appease an angry mob of Japanese shareholders who have absolutely had it with France.

As there was no exit poll for the event, we’ve no idea how many shareholders have it in for la République. But numerous accounts of the event described the situation as chaotic and angry with some international bad blood on full display.

In fact, it’s our suspicion that Saikawa’s reappointment as CEO hinged (at least in part) on there being a sizable number Japanese investors that are sick of Renault and the French government pulling the strings at Nissan. Renault has a controlling 43 percent stake in the Japanese automaker, while Nissan has a 15 percent stake in Renault, with no voting rights. But Saikawa has been trying to balance power within the alliance — whether that be through overt committee reforms or via unconfirmed claims that he orchestrated the arrest of his former boss, and merger advocate, Carlos Ghosn.

At one point, a former Nissan employee publicly expressed his gratitude to Ghosn for saving Nissan from bankruptcy in 1999 and was promptly told to shut up by another shareholder — followed by some pocketed yelling.

During the fracas meeting, Saikawa hinted that he might not be with the company for long. But, before he leaves, he said he wanted to restore Nissan’s lagging profits, implement new corporate governance reforms, and fix the company’s strained relationship with Renault.

While Saikawa had to address concerns of numerous shareholders begging that he not allow Nissan to integrate with Renault any further and accusations that he has allowed the company to fail, Senard had it far worse. He was criticized by shareholders for having a phony baloney affection for Nissan and bashed for allowing Renault to even consider a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles when the current state of the auto alliance leaves much to be desired.

From Automotive News:

One shareholder said he feared a foreign takeover of Nissan and took a dig at Senard’s nationality, saying “French people” often hide true intentions behind a smiling facade. “They are really sly,” the shareholder said.

“Can you behave as a Nissan director and not just as the chairman of Renault?” he asked Senard. “You would like to take advantage of the merger for Renault. That’s obvious.”

Senard’s rebuttal was emotional. He pleaded with the audience to believe that he has the automaker’s best interests at heart.

“I beg you to believe me on that,” Senard said. “There was obviously no aggressive intention.”

“The last thing that came in my mind was to be aggressive toward a company of which I am a director. I beg you to believe me on that,” he said. “There are no bad intentions at all.”

Senard defended the proposed merger with FCA, saying Nissan had missed an opportunity. “You know who was very pleased after the announcement that this deal was stopped? All our competitors in the world,” he said. “They understood that if this deal had gone through, it would have been a very, very strong feature for the alliance.”

This was, reportedly, not met with much praise from the Japanese crowd. But at least Senard seems aware that the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance is in real trouble. He told audience their corporate relationship was in “much worse state” than he thought.

However, that statement was likely for the benefit of Nissan’s angry shareholders. If Senard seriously just realized there are far-reaching problems between Renault and Nissan, he has no business running a car company.

[Image: Renault]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jul 01, 2019

    The grand auto conglomerates are breaking up one by one. VW has talked of spinning off parts to help pay for its expen$ive future, and FCA spun off Ferrari a while ago. This alliance clearly can't work due to a major cultural divide. That's what nearly killed Chrysler under M-B.

    • Car driver Car driver on Jul 03, 2019

      Exactly, And also nissan has more technology, but treated as the smaller player. The french cannot just let go, they made a lot from the alliance, but still trying to strangle it.

  • Car driver Car driver on Jul 03, 2019

    really, what has renault bring to the table, worth more than nissan? nissan brought EV tech, hybrid tech, fuel cell tech, autonomous tech, even the 1.8 turbo in the megane RS is nissan tech. would you like being boss around while you are the one bring all the tech?

  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂
  • VoGhost Matt, I'm curious why you write that inventory levels are low at 74 days. Typically, 60 days is the benchmark for normal inventory.
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