Carlos Ghosn has revived two troubled automakers and he is in the midst of doing so with a third. Now, he’s poised to undertake what might well be his final act: A full merger of Renault and Nissan after almost two decades of cooperation under a complex cross-shareholding alliance.
The globetrotting auto-industry superstar, once nicknamed “Le Cost Killer,” wants to combine the two companies into a single corporation, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The aim is to trim expenses and bulk up enough to survive the industry’s transition to cleaner and greener vehicles — and ensure that the alliance lives on when the 64-year-old retires.
“Ghosn created this monster airplane that has to be hand-flown,” said James Womack, founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “If he’s going to hand it off to a mere mortal someday, he needs something that’s a bit more flyable.”
The partnership has a byzantine structure that can be confusing for investors.
Nissan holds a 15% stake of Renault and Renault has 44% of Nissan. In 2016, Ghosn added Mitsubishi Motors to the mix after the company had been caught falsifying mileage estimates for several of its vehicles and was forced to offer hundreds of millions of dollars in rebates. Further complicating matters, the French government owns 15% of Renault, making it the largest shareholder.
Ghosn, who serves as chairman of all three companies, has long said the arrangement was more efficient than a full-blown merger, but now he’s driving the negotiations and plans to run the combined entity, the people said. The alliance declined to comment on the report of the talks.