By on January 13, 2020

Despite Nissan and Renault spending much of 2019 attempting to reassure the world that their 20-year relationship was soundly intact, fractures have been impossible to hide from the public. If you want an analogy, imagine a carton of milk being left to curdle near a radiator and someone attaching a post-it note that reads “fine for drinking.”

While legitimate efforts to fix the relationship have been made (parts sharing, more collaborative projects, management changes, etc.), a lot of it has been undercut by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance attempting to cleanse itself of the old guard — many of whom had ties to former alliance chair Carlos Ghosn. At the same time, Nissan has sought autonomy from the French automaker, enacting corporate reforms to give it a bit more independence. It also has a cogency plan ready in the event it has to break from Renault entirely; reportedly, Nissan’s been updating that strategy ever since Ghosn escaped Japanese custody last month. 

According to the Financial Times, sources familiar with the matter said Nissan’s contingency plan focuses on engineering and technology and what what might need to be changed if it breaks from Renault. It quoted two sources as describing the current corporate relationship as “toxic” and exceptionally difficult to manage.

From FT:

Even during the Ghosn era, when the alliance was functioning more smoothly, people close to Nissan said discontent was growing among some engineers about the former chairman’s push to combine engineering and manufacturing, which is at the heart of the Japanese group’s technology.

But the integration that did occur under Mr Ghosn means ending the alliance would now be painful. The purchasing function is totally combined, while Nissan is preparing to launch the Ariya, an all-electric sport utility vehicle, within the next three years, using a new platform co-developed with Renault.

A full split would probably force both carmakers to seek new partners in an industry grappling with falling sales and rising costs from the shift to electric vehicles.

One of the main reasons manufacturers have buddied up of late has everything to do with high development costs of modern vehicles (specifically EVs). Jean-Dominique Senard, Renault’s chairman, plans to reveal several jointly developed concept vehicles for the brands to manufacture together.

While the hypothetical split would leave both companies out in the cold, Nissan has been examining what it would take to achieve complete independence in terms of engineering and manufacturing. The specifics of the plan remain a closely guarded secret.

While Renault can continue trying to draw Nissan in more closely, there will always be a contingency in Japan who believe Senard’s efforts to create a uniform alliance are misguided. Japanese shareholders have grown increasingly vocal in their distaste for further integration; pushing for more after Ghosn’s arrest, re-arrest, and subsequent escape from the country hasn’t gone over well. Nissan’s plan to distance itself from Renault may only be a plan at this juncture, but it’s one it’s reportedly working on very hard at the moment — and it’s one with at least some preexisting support.


[Image: Memory Stockphoto/Shutterstock]

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6 Comments on “Nissan Working on Contingency Plan in Case Things Go South With Renault...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Nissan has been examining what it would take to achieve complete independence in terms of engineering and manufacturing. The specifics of the plan remain a closely guarded secret.”

    Well, if I’m reading about it on TTAC, it’s not that closely guarded. Resorting to skullduggery inside the company to figure out what a divorce would look like has to be an interestingly tense situation. This has to be making Renault edgy.

  • avatar

    So with all due respect to anyone affected by the defect in the cars…

    The Alliance is about as stable as an exploding heater core in an Alliance?!

    What will they do for an Encore now?

    (::Drops mic!::)

  • avatar

    Nissan’s been making contingency plans for the forced breakup of the Alliance since they worked out a plan to get Ghosn. His sin was promoting greater integration of the partners. Nissan is under the highly questionable xenophobic illusion that they are streets ahead of Renault in the technology stakes. They have a half-baked EV with no decent thermal management for the battery, a variable compression ratio engine that works but not outstandingly and nowhere near the myth, and a load of old plodding cars/engines putt-putting around with CVT’s. Sales are tanking worldwide. Of course they yearn to be set free to bankrupt themselves. Now they act as if the possible failure of the Alliance, which they themselves are orchestrating, would need a contingency plan on their own side. Two-faced nonsense. Pretty much like American comments on today’s Renaults which virtually nobody from North America has even driven, but inherently know are awful, just because.

    • 0 avatar

      Nissan (Datsun) made decent quality cars before they hooked up with Renault. It was Ghosn’s brutal cost-cutting that produced poor fit and finish, the recent scandal of inspections that weren’t completed, and the switch to CVTs.

      The Ghosn saga is part of the plan to extricate Nissan from its partnership with Renault, and the Japanese government is involved. The big problem is Renault’s voting rights on Nissan’s board and the lack of reciprocal Nissan rights on Renault’s board.

      The ultimate goal from the outset has been the breakup of the partnership, with Nissan a fully independent, Japanese controlled company. The Japanese government will have to take a direct interest in the “operation” to counter the French government influence over Renault. When, not if, they do, the partnership is over.

    • 0 avatar

      The Japanese / Nissan are probably afraid that Carlos will drive Nissan into the ground and make its reputation into the Fiat territory. They probably also don’t want foreigners in charge and reveal the financial engineering typical inside a Japanese company.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Getting tired of reading article about Nissan. Nissan has about reached the point of no return and regardless if Renault has a stake in it or that Nissan frees themselves from Renault it is likely to fail. Maybe it is time for Nissan to die as a brand.

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