New Nissan CEO Examines Renault Alliance (Not the Car)

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
new nissan ceo examines renault alliance not the car

Nissan’s new chief executive, Makoto Uchida, believes now is the time to reassess its corporate partnership with Renault. In case this is the first automotive-related article you’ve read this year, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is sickly. Bizarre financial scandals involving the group’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn ( and others), internal power struggles, serious money troubles — the situation is rife with headaches. But Uchida says the only way to cope is to publicly recognize the elephant in the room and see what can be done.

“The alliance is critical to reach our goals,” Uchida said at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama on Monday. “We need to look at what worked within the alliance, and what didn’t, and decide how to go forward.”

Nissan is facing a list of problems so long that we couldn’t possibly fit it all into one article. For Uchida, the biggest issues are turning the company’s finances around and adjusting the power balance that currently slants heavily in favor of Renault. The current capital structure in the partnership, leaves the French automaker owning 43 percent of Nissan with voting rights, while Nissan only has a 15 percent stake in Renault and no votes.

This has been a serious issue for Japanese investors, many of which become increasingly vocal over the last few years. According to Bloomberg, Nissan’s share price has fallen 23 percent this year, following a 22-percent decline in 2018. The automaker’s current financial situation is terrible and looking like it might take years to recover. Not much of a bargaining chip, frankly. Profits are at decade lows, with an estimated 12,500 jobs being cut to save money. Nissan also has to contend with heavy investments into electrification and self-driving tech as it dumps more development cash into freshening its fairly dated lineup.

Meanwhile, former alliance chair Carlos Ghosn is awaiting trail in Japan on embezzlement charges. He’s repeatedly denied them, saying they were either above board or drummed up as part of a corporate coup. Even though that could be a fib to help gather sympathy, Renault and Nissan did oust every high-level executive with ties to him this year — including the man whose job Uchida assumed on short notice. The coup seems to have happened, even if Ghosn turns out to be guilty.

“It’s not realistic to expect a miraculous V-shaped recovery, but it is important to show that it can be done,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Tatsuo Yoshida explained. “Externally, Uchida needs to normalize the relationship with Renault and restore trust in Nissan. Internally, he needs to address the gulf that’s opened up between employees and management.”

Nissan has already made some governance reforms and is trying to gain some independence from France and make the home team proud. It’s also trying to collaborate more with Renault in a way that keeps everyone happy, necessitating a general secretary to provide regular oversight. But Uchida has a long way to go toward restoring the alliance’s former glory and mutual trust.

[Image: FotograFFF/Shutterstock]

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  • Michael S6 Michael S6 on Dec 02, 2019

    Nissan was fighting to free itself from the alliance when it was making a nice profit. Now that it is losing money, the Alliance is important again. Maybe they will drop the charges against Carlos Ghosn and bring him back as honorary thief and chairman.

  • EGSE EGSE on Dec 03, 2019

    Tonight's (Dec 3) Nightly Business Report listed North American November 2019 sales vs. Nov 2018 for Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Pretty grim for Nissan, at least on this continent. U.S. represents ~44% of WW revenue (oddly no Canada numbers listed). Can't blame the overall auto market for their plight. Toyota +9.2% Honda +11% Nissan -16% NBR (jump to 11:30 in video): More stats for those with nothing better to do:

  • VoGhost I'm clearly in the minority here, but I think this is a smart move. Apple is getting very powerful, and has slowly been encroaching on the driving experience over the last decade. Companies like GM were on the verge of turning into mere hardware vendors to the Apple brand. "Is that a new car; what did you get?" "I don't remember. But it has the latest Apple OS, which is all I care about." Taking back the driving experience before it was too late might just be GM's smartest move in a while.
  • VoGhost Can someone Christian explain to me what this has to do with Jesus and bunnies?
  • Del My father bought GM cars in the 60's, but in 1971 he gave me a used Datsun (as they were called back then), and I'm now in my 70's and am happy to say that GM has been absent from my entire adult life. This article makes me gladder than ever.
  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……