Renault’s new CEO, Thierry Bollore, does not see a position for Carlos Ghosn at the automaker whether or not the toppled executive is cleared in Japan of financial misconduct.
“Look at the situation. We are in a completely new context today at Renault. We have a new chairman of the board, we have a new CEO, and now we move forward,” Bollore said at the auto show here this week.
Bollore was previously Ghosn’s deputy at Renault. When former Michelin Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard was also named Renault chairman, he replaced his former boss as CEO in January.
Bollore was pressed by Japanese media in Geneva to get an opinion on whether Nissan’s move to investigate Ghosn was a conspiracy, as many have cited.
“Since the beginning, we have been very clear at Renault that it’s not our job to judge,” he said. “We take the facts as they occur, and we will wait for the results in the future, in terms of a trial. We have no preconceived ideas.”
Bollore said he was pleased that Ghosn had been released on bail from detention in Japan where the former alliance leader is awaiting trial for alleged financial misconduct at Nissan but said the top priority now is looking to the future.
“It’s good news for him,” Bollore said of Ghosn’s bail. “But you understand that the key thing for us is to focus.”
Renault presently has a dual management teams, with Bollore managing operations and Senard dealing with governance and alliance issues. Ghosn retained both the CEO and chairman posts for more than a decade. “The dissociation of the chairman of the board and the CEO is a change we have to make, and are making,” Bollore said.
The board of directors and the operational team are adapting the way they communicate and collaborate so that “everybody feels comfortable,” he said.
Renault’s midterm plan was intimately attached to the success of the alliance, which generates billions in cross-company savings on purchasing and shared development costs, Bollore said.
He shied away from any talk of a merger or change in the cross-shareholdings, a sore point with Nissan, which is much larger than Renault but holds just 15 percent of the French automaker with no voting rights, while Renault holds 43 percent of Nissan.
” We need to make the alliance better and faster, to be fit and match with the competition and the overall landscape of the car industry, which is moving so fast,” Bollore said.
Decision-making too slow
Bollore said his target is to make the Renault-Nissan alliance “irreversible” but said there were some areas of the partnership that were not optimal.
He identified the practice of “nemawashi“, a Japanese term for the painstaking process of building consensus by sharing information up and down a company in order to eventually arrive at a decision.
“This process can be a little bit not appropriate and heavy for the speed at which we should go on the market,” he said. “So this is where the evolution of structures could help our operation. The reality is you can put in an agile way of working in any kind of organization.”
Bollore, a soft-spoken Frenchman, came aboard Renault from tiremaker Michelin like Senard. Bollore has darted to stamp his mark on the automaker, presenting himself as a stabilising force in a plight that endangers the future of thousands of distressed employees.
Bollore said the level of “anxiety, of doubt, of questioning was very high” following Ghosn’s arrest. “That’s why it’s important that whatever the news will be– and there will be more coming to the surface– the priority is to move forward,” he said.
A Renault internal audit had not found problems associated to Ghosn’s conduct or compensation, with the exception of the use of the Versailles palace to celebrate his wedding, Bollore said.
A joint Renault-Nissan investigation of RNBV, the Dutch corporate entity that supervises common operations across the alliance should be finalized by the end of this month, he said.