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Renault-Nissan: highlights in a 20-year alliance

Published on October 11, 2019

Japanese carmaker Nissan was rescued from bankruptcy two decades ago by France’s Renault but the union has been strained since the arrest last year of its architect, Carlos Ghosn.

With both sides revamping their leadership in the fallout of the Ghosn affair, here are key dates of the sometimes rocky alliance:

– Franco-Japanese marriage –

In March 1999 France’s Renault comes to the rescue of heavily indebted Nissan Motor Company, which needs a partner in order to survive.

Under an accord signed in Tokyo, the French group takes 36.8 percent of Nissan.

– Ghosn makes his mark –

In June 1999 Ghosn, the Renault number two, unveils a recovery plan for Nissan that includes the closure of five plants and the loss of 21,000 jobs.

Cooperation between the two groups on distribution, purchasing and manufacturing gets off the ground, and their alliance starts to bear fruit from 2001.

– Cross shareholding –

A recovering Nissan in 2002 takes a 15 percent share in Renault, which takes a 44.4 percent share in the Japanese firm, a stake now at 43.4 percent.

They firm up plans for a binational group and set up a joint management structure based in The Netherlands.

By 2003 Nissan has become the second biggest carmaker in the world by market capitalisation.

Ghosn becomes Renault chief in 2005 and takes over the reins of the two groups.

– Mitsubishi onboard –

In 2015 tensions erupt, with Nissan angry when the French state’s stake in Renault’s capital is increased to 19.7 percent, since dropping back to 15 percent.

They reach an accord that caps the government’s ability to interfere in the affairs of the alliance.

In 2016 the alliance expands to struggling Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi Motors, in which Nissan takes a 34 percent stake.

In April 2017 Ghosn cedes the post of Nissan CEO to Hiroto Saikawa while remaining chief of Renault and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

That year the grouping claims the spot of the world’s top-selling auto company, producing 10.6 million cars, bringing it neck and neck with Volkswagen and ahead of Toyota.

– Ghosn falls –

In November 2018 Ghosn is arrested on multiple financial misconduct charges. Held in custody, he is quickly replaced at Nissan and Mitsubishi.

At Renault Thierry Bollore takes over Ghosn’s role and is named chief executive in January 2019 with Jean-Dominique Senard becoming chairman.

The alliance reels.

Friction mounts over a French plan for a merger between Renault and Nissan, then over tie-up plans with Fiat Chrysler (FCA) which later collapses.

Nissan says the French automaker kept it in the dark over its merger plans with FCA.

In July, struggling with weak sales and the Ghosn scandal, Nissan announces that net profit slumped nearly 95 percent in the previous quarter and says it will cut 12,500 jobs.

– Changes at the top –

In September 2019 Nissan announces the departure of Saikawa after he admitted receiving excess pay by altering the terms of a bonus.

The following month it names a new chief executive, Makoto Uchida, and a leadership overhaul to avoid any consolidation of power.

It also sets up three new oversight committees.

Days later Renault announces that it has sacked Bollore.

The alliance must “begin a new chapter, with a clear industrial strategy,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire says afterwards.