For Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co., the Carlos Ghosn saga is a nightmare that never seems to end. Fallout from their ex-boss’s November 2018 arrest in Tokyo for alleged financial crimes permeated deep into the French and Japanese carmakers’ operations, paralyzing decision-making and straining their twodecade partnership nearly to the breaking point.
Yet in the last few months of 2019, the companies gave themselves a second chance to mend the shattered relationship. In a bid to start anew, Nissan replaced top management and Renault dramatically ousted its chief executive officer, former Ghosn protégé Thierry Bollore. But the bad dream came back with a vengeance when Ghosn burst back onto the global scene as an international fugitive, following a spectacular escape from Japan and his strict bail restrictions to his native Lebanon (page 52).
Ghosn regained the freedom to speak publicly, and judging by what he’s said, during a 2½-hour Beirut press conference and subsequent interviews, much of his vitriol is directed at the auto makers, which along with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. form the world’s biggest carmaking alliance. He accused Nissan executives of colluding with Japanese prosecutors out of spite over losing power to Renault in the alliance. He also seemed to snub Renault’s managers for not completing merger discussions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which he said were well under way before his arrest. The question now is whether Ghosn’s media assault has rekindled the spark of suspicion between the companies enough to put them on an inexorable path to separation.
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