(Changes day to Thursday in first, fifth and last paragraphs)
* Tavares quits COO role with immediate effect
* CEO Ghosn to take over duties temporarily
PARIS, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Renault second-in-command Carlos Tavares abruptly stepped down on Thursday, reviving speculation that he could join one of the U.S. carmakers as a potential CEO candidate.
Tavares, No. 2 to Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, will "cease as of today his functions of chief operating officer to pursue other personal projects", the French carmaker said in a statement.
Renault had no comment on his next move but said Tavares would leave the company at a later date. Ghosn, who also heads Japanese affiliate Nissan, will temporarily assume his duties pending a management reshuffle.
Tavares, who served as Nissan's Americas chief before returning to Renault in 2011, would be well suited to a high-ranking role at a U.S. carmaker, according to senior executives who have worked with him.
"If it's between Germany and the U.S., America would be more in line with his temperament and experience," one said on Thursday, declining to be named.
In an interview published on Aug. 14, Tavares told Bloomberg he had "the energy and appetite for a No. 1 position" but was unlikely to succeed Ghosn, 59, anytime soon.
"My experience would be good for any car company," Tavares was quoted as saying. "Why not GM? I would be honoured to lead a company like GM."
General Motors, whose CEO Dan Akerson is 64, has not commented on Tavares' remarks. Ford maintains it has succession plans in place for all executives including CEO Alan Mulally, 68.
Media officials at Ford and GM's European Opel division did not immediately return calls seeking further comment on Thursday. (Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Christiaan Hetzner in Frankfurt; Editing by James Regan)