October 2, 2018 / 11:31 AM / a year ago

Ghosn turns to Japanese to deflect Renault-Nissan succession question

PARIS (Reuters) - Carlos Ghosn, head of the world’s largest automotive alliance by sales, gets a lot of questions about who could replace him, and at the Paris auto show on Tuesday he used a fresh way to postpone an answer.

FILE PHOTO: Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, attends at the Tomorrow In Motion event on the eve of press day at the Paris Auto Show, in Paris, France, October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

“I’m in nemawashi mode,” Ghosn told reporters at a briefing at Renault’s stand at the show, using a Japanese term for engaging a group of people to reach consensus on a course of action.

Ghosn said the deliberations would take into account “what kind of organization, legal structure ... we need to put in place to ensure the sustainability of the alliance.”

Ghosn, 64, has said he plans to remain as Renault chief executive and CEO of the alliance until 2022. In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, he said answers about succession and potential changes to the cross-shareholding structure of the three main partners should come by June 2020, the midpoint of his term.

France’s Renault SA (RENA.PA), and Japan’s Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T), are joined by cross shareholdings and shared activities such as purchasing and technology development.

They operate separately in global markets, in certain cases as rivals. Together, the companies are on track to sell more than 11 million vehicles this year, Ghosn said.

Ghosn was instrumental in forging the Renault-Nissan alliance two decades ago, taking a then-unconventional approach to engineering economies of scale without a full merger. His record gives him “legitimacy in every one of these companies,” he said. He is chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi.

The future management and capital structure of the alliance has been a subject of increasing speculation among investors.

Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, while Nissan owns 15 percent of Renault, with no voting rights in a partnership that began in 1999. Since 2016, Nissan has held a 34 percent controlling stake in its smaller Japanese rival, Mitsubishi.

Complicating matters for Ghosn and the other shareholders is the French government, which holds a 15 percent stake in Renault. Earlier this year, people familiar with the companies said Nissan was in talks to acquire the French government stake, but a deal never materialized.

German automaker Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) also has a number of joint vehicle and technology partnerships with members of the alliance. Ghosn and Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche are scheduled to discuss their partnerships at a Paris auto show press conference on Wednesday.

Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Mark Potter

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