Is this the beginning of the end?
Things are on very shaky ground these days for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Declared the world's second-largest automaker only a year behind the Volkswagen Group, the Euro-Asian automaker has been surrounded by controversy ever since the arrest of former CEO Carlos Ghosn in November 2018. Ghosn, now an international fugitive, managed last month to flee Japan for Lebanon in a daring and mysterious operation that sounds more like a Hollywood movie than real life.
And let's not forget the failed Renault-FCA merger. FCA, instead, found a merger partner in Renault's French rival, PSA Group. Nissan, meanwhile, is struggling with a significant sales drop in the US. In short, this is a huge mess. What does the future hold?
According to a new report from the Financial Times, no one really knows but Nissan isn't taking any chances.
The report claims Nissan has stepped up contingency plans for a potential split from Renault. These include plans for future engineering and manufacturing operations as well as changes to Nissan's board. Why the sudden planning? Because Ghosn fled to Lebanon where he is now claiming the Japanese justice system is "rigged". The already troubled relations between Renault and Nissan could take a turn for the worse as Ghosn fights his legal battle outside of Japan.
Up until now, Nissan had been trying to figure out how to sustain the alliance, specifically by sharing engineering and technology. Vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and its all-electric platform and related tech could now be more vital than ever. The sudden about-face is all about long-term survival, though it remains unclear how Nissan would get over one significant hurdle: Renault is Nissan's biggest shareholder and the French automaker and the French government want to see the alliance repaired.
If a split were to eventually happen, the report claims both Renault and Nissan would seek new global partners. Mitsubishi, which was saved at nearly the last minute by Ghosn from its own dire situation when it was incorporated into the alliance, could have the most difficult time moving forward. Renault and Nissan have been in an alliance since 1999 when Ghosn-lead Renault saved Nissan from near death.
Although the relationship between the two automakers wasn't always perfect, Ghosn served as the glue; he kept it all together. Without him, the alliance may just not be salvageable.