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Renault/Nissan Split Rumors Intensify

The rumor mill is working overtime and suggesting Renault and Nissan may soon dissolve their decade-long alliance. If so, will they find other partners?

It will come as a surprise to almost no one that the decade-long alliance between Renault and Nissan may be coming apart at the seams. After chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested and held for months in solitary confinement in a Japanese prison last year, most assumed the alliance was on shaky ground. Then after he managed to elude Japanese authorities and find his way to Lebanon, the strains in the relationship got worse.

Nissan Renault alliance

Image: Kyle Field |

Now, the Financial Times is reporting that Nissan executives are hard at work figuring out how to split up the alliance and abrogate the plan Ghosn put in place to share engineering and manufacturing platforms between the two companies. Mitsubishi is also part of the alliance, but controlling interest in it is owned by Nissan.

Motor1 expands on the Financial Times report, explaining that many senior Nissan managers and engineers were not happy campers and chafed under Ghosn’s autocratic style. Even Jean-Dominique Senard, who took over as chairman after Ghosn was incarcerated, expressed doubts the partnership could endure.

The problem is, if the companies dissolve their working relationship they will both be faced with significant research and development costs to bring electric and autonomous cars to market independently. The Financial Times hints that both may seek other partners to help them move forward.

Which raises this question. What companies are out there looking for new partners? (What follows is rank speculation based on nothing but hunches.) Clearly, people steeped in Japanese industrial culture seem to have a hard time working closely with those who have not been subjected to the same influences, which suggests Nissan might look to another Japanese company, like Toyota or Honda or Subaru. Are any of them anxious to align themselves with Nissan? That could depend entirely on what the position of the Japanese government is on that question.

In Europe, Renault recently said “no, thank you” to an overture from Fiat. Fiat in turn embraced an offer from PSA, manufacturer of Peugeot and Citroen automobiles. It is unlikely PSA is interested in adding any more new partners just now. Who else in Europe might be interested. Hmmm… Volkswagen is looking to sell its MEB electric car chassis to other companies. BMW could use some help with its electric car program. Mercedes is big enough to gobble up Renault, but would they want to?

We have been saying for a long time now that the EV revolution is going to redraw the auto industry map. Some well known companies are likely to fall by the wayside. It seems a particularly bad time to be fragmenting when the rest of the industry is consolidating. Will either Nissan or Renault still be around when this new decade is over? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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