Nissan seeks more sway in Renault alliance as governments urge stability

France stands by embattled Renault boss Carlos Ghosn after shock arrest in Japan

Street monitor showing a news report about arrest of Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn  in Tokyo,  November 21st. Photograph: Reuters/Toru Hanai

Street monitor showing a news report about arrest of Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn in Tokyo, November 21st. Photograph: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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France stood by embattled Renault boss Carlos Ghosn on Wednesday, saying it wanted evidence from industry partner Nissan to support misconduct allegations against him, and added that both Paris and Tokyo wanted a stable carmaking alliance.

While Japan took a similar line, saying it was keen for stability in the Nissan-Renault partnership following Mr Ghosn’s arrest, a Nissan executive said the Japanese automaker was seeking ways to weaken the influence of its French partner.

The 19-year alliance, enlarged in 2016 to include Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors, has been rattled to its core by Mr Ghosn’s shock arrest in Japan on Monday, with the 64-year-old group chairman and industry star accused of financial misconduct.

“We need to return to the original idea of a win-win relationship,” a long-time Nissan executive told reporters at an organised briefing, speaking on condition of anonymity. It should be “a more equal relationship than before”.

The French government holds 15 per cent of Renault, which in turn owns 43.4 per cent of Nissan. The Japanese company holds a non-voting 15 per cent stake in Renault and a 34 per cent share of Mitsubishi Motors

The Nissan executive said a reduction of Renault’s stake in Nissan – which recovered from near-bankruptcy after Mr Ghosn took its helm and is now more profitable than its French partner – should be one option under consideration.

In Japan, there is concern that France is ultimately seeking to take control of Nissan and Mitsubishi. In France, there are suspicions that Mr Ghosn may have been targeted so as to hinder French influence.

Nissan has said it will fire Mr Ghosn as chairman on Thursday.

On Monday, Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa portrayed Nissan as a victim of Mr Ghosn’s alleged misdeeds. But Nissan itself faces scrutiny over the financial misconduct case, with the Asahi newspaper reporting on Wednesday that prosecutors were weighing bringing a case against the Japanese automaker.

On Wednesday, Renault shares rose 1.3 per cent after falling more than 9 per cent this week. Nissan closed up 0.4 per cent after falling nearly 6 per cent a day earlier. Mitsubishi Motors closed down 1 per cent after losing nearly 7 per cent on Tuesday. – Reuters

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