After two months of chaos, the Renault-Nissan auto union turned Ghosn's page. The promise of reassurance, but also the beginning of complex discussions about its future, including the role of the French state.
According to experts, the main obstacle is in the intervention of the French government, which is very badly perceived in Japan. In order to "restore confidence," "there is only one solution, the French state reduces its share" in Renault, which is 15.01%, just before Nissan (even if it does not have the right to vote). Or at least he is retiring, says Takaki Nakanishi, an analyst at Tokyo. "In Japan, in Nissan, but also on the part of bureaucrats, public opinion, France's strong intervention is worrying," he insists, urging Renault to play "an important role" in resolving this problem. Gaetan Toulemond, a Deutsche Bank automotive analyst, agrees. "Let's not forget Volvo more than 20 years ago. The marriage was overturned because of the French state, whose leaders were considered arrogant by the Swedish producer, he remembers.
The visit of a French delegation in mid-January has raised concerns. According to several Japanese media, she urged the Japanese authorities to consider integrating the two producers.
"The merger today is not at the table," French Economy Minister Bruno Major denied. He acknowledged, however, that the project was one of the possibilities for strengthening the union. Nissan has never concealed his hostility to such a scenario, afraid to be under the authority of Paris. "If Renault treats Nissan on an equal footing and limits the influence of the government, the alliance can believe in its future," said Janet Lewis, a Macquarie Capital Securities industry specialist. But in order to "find some form of calm," "open a new chapter," as the will was expressed by both sides on Thursday, we will have to rearrange the links.
The surprising arrest on November 19 in Japan of a builder of a 20-year-old ally, Carlos Gos, for alleged financial abuse, has revealed divisions. The Diamond Group hesitated to split with its CEO while Nissan was accused of "plotting." After weeks of "tough communication," Nissan boss Saikwa talks with Renault's new president, Jean-Dominique Surard, who boasted. In front of the media on Thursday, Saikava spoke of her hope for association, "respecting each of its members." "It's not about who has more shares or not," he insisted. In other words, not because Renault owns 43% of Nissan that it must impose its views. Especially since the Japanese manufacturer is already a heavyweight duo.
Divorce is difficult or impossible
"A marriage can only work if both sides are happy," said Lewis. Renault came to rescue Nissan in 1999, when the Japanese flagship was on the brink of bankruptcy, creating "unprecedented success." "But companies are evolving over time: Nissan today is very different from the company Renault has invested in, and Renault must be ready to change its working relationship to reflect Nissan," said the analyst.
And to mention its technological advantages and its strong presence in North America, China and Southeast Asia through Mitsubishi Motors, the third enterprise in a group that grew in 2017 to the World Summit. Mr Senard said, "We can not be alone, so the union is absolutely necessary," as the industry is changing at full speed, in favor of electric vehicles connected and autonomous.
Analysts agree that divorce is difficult, if not impossible. "It took 20 years to get there, it will take another 20 years to destroy everything," warns Takaki Nakanishi. The two partners have no choice but to continue their journey together, he continues, putting in place a cumbersome French state. But Renault, with its history, its iconic models (4CV Clio and Twingo) occupies a special place in the Hexagon. "I want the French to know: there is not a day to pass without carefully watching the situation of Renault and that of the Union," the mayor said recently.
As writer from the regional press editor writes yesterday, "Renault is in the car that Johnny (Haliday) is on the song. Total national good.
Anne Béade / AFP
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