Renault SA shares hit six-year lows on Monday as investors worried the French automaker’s 20-year cost-sharing alliance with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is headed for a breakup without Carlos Ghosn to hold it together.
Long-standing tensions in the Franco-Japanese partnership have been heightened since Mr. Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo in November, 2018, on allegations of financial misconduct, which he denies.
After a dramatic flight from Japanese justice late last month, Mr. Ghosn called the alliance a “masquerade” during a media briefing last week.
A Financial Times report on Monday that Nissan executives are making contingency plans for a split with Renault appeared to accelerate a sell-off in the French manufacturer’s shares.
Renault shares closed down 1.8 per cent. The shares have lost more than a third of their value since Mr. Ghosn’s arrest and his subsequent ouster as head of the alliance.
Mr. Ghosn’s attacks and the loss of confidence among investors have caught Renault and Nissan management in the middle of transitions to new chief executives.
The companies are trying to forge solutions to problems with their long-standing partnership, and launch new joint industrial projects, people familiar with the situation said. So far, those efforts haven’t produced visible results.
Alliance relations were further strained last year by Renault’s failed attempt to merge with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. But the roots of the tensions go back years.
A major sticking point since 2015 has been the equal division of costs for R&D into new technology and products, two sources close to Nissan said.
That strategy “did not compensate Nissan’s work properly: Nissan’s engineering output was 40 per cent better, meaning Nissan engineers on average produced 40 per cent more than their Renault counterparts in a given amount of time spent on a job,” one of the sources said.
“When measured more strictly, Nissan’s output in some cases was double Renault’s,” he said.
Nissan has asked for an analysis of the workloads and productivity of Renault and Nissan staffs, one person familiar with the situation said.
The companies hope changes at the top could mark a reset for the partnership, but people familiar with the situation said divisions within Nissan’s senior management are complicating efforts to fix the alliance and launch new projects.
Renault is in the process of choosing a new CEO after ousting Thierry Bolloré in October and late last year Nissan picked Makoto Uchida, known for having close ties with Renault, as CEO.
Some developments set in motion during the Ghosn era are set to come to fruition in 2020 – Nissan’s crossover electric car, based on its Ariya concept model, will be the first to launch on the two firms’ new joint electric platform, and in 2021 a Renault equivalent should also take shape.
Jean-Dominique Senard, who joined Renault from tire maker Michelin as chairman in early 2019 after Mr. Ghosn’s arrest, has vowed to get the alliance working by this year, although the firms have yet to present new common initiatives.
“The problem is today, there’s nothing concrete as we look ahead, no goals,” a former senior employee at Renault said.